Avian flu killing Jharkhand crows: virology institute

Highly pathogenic H5N1virus that can even spread to humans

By Dinsa Sachan
Published: Saturday 03 December 2011

Deaths of crows have been reported in large numbers across Jharkhand in the past one week. Carcasses have been spotted in Jamshedpur, Bokaro, Hazaribagh and other areas. Media reports estimate the number of crow deaths to be anywhere between 500 and 1,000.

Scientists at National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune have found the virus to be H5N1. It is a highly pathogenic virus that can even spread to humans.

Residents report that incidents of crow deaths started surfacing in the beginning of September. However, the event captured media attention only towards November end. Several teams, including that of the Indian Institute of Veterinary Research (IVRI) in Bareilly, have collected carcasses and are presently conducting tests to ascertain the cause of the deaths. The IVRI results are still awaited. NIV, in the meanwhile, has confirmed the presence of the HN51 virus in the dead crows.

The crows tested negative for Japanese encephalitis or West Nile virus. M Sharma at IVRI Bareilly says the report will be out in a couple of days. He says the deaths of crows in such huge numbers have not been reported before.

M D Dwivedi, bird watcher and researcher at Vinobha Bhave University in Hazaribagh in Jharkhand, claims he has seen several crows die. Explaining their symptoms, he says, “It appears the right side of their body is not working. They seem to have concussion.” After speaking to labourers in the Bokaro steel plant, he concluded there have been 500 deaths in the region. Sushil Tiwari, district data manager of Integrated Disease Surveillance Project (IDSP) in East Singhbum district, says around 1,500 crow deaths have been reported in Jamshedpur itself. No cases of human infection have been reported so far, he adds. As a preventive measure, IDSP has asked the Jamshedpur Utilities and Services Company Ltd to collect the bird carcasses and incinerate them. Staff handling the crows have been provided with personal protection equipment like gloves, glasses and some tablets in order to ensure they do not contract the virus.

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