Bird flu in Kerala under control, say authorities

It was caused by H5N1 virus, confirm laboratory tests; culling to end Monday

By M Suchitra
Published: Monday 01 December 2014


The bird flu outbreak in Kerala, which was confirmed to be caused by the deadly H5N1 virus, is under control. Though the avian influenza was caused by the highly contagious H5N1 strain of virus, which can be fatal to humans, no person was found to be infected with the virus, said state agriculture minister K P Mohanan in Thiruvananthapuram after a review meeting held on Sunday.

He also said the first round of culling of birds would end Monday.

The outbreak was reported last week in Kuttnad region in central Kerala after some 20,000 ducks died of the disease. Kuttanad, a major rice growing region, is spread over three districts—Alappuzha, Kottayam and Pathanamthitta. The region has about 600,000 ducks. The avian influenza and the subtype of the virus were confirmed following lab tests at the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases, Bhopal.

Subsequently, the state government ordered culling of infected birds.

The government had formed a rapid action force for culling the birds. About 185,000 birds have already been culled and the figure will go up to 250,000, said the minister. The highest number of birds, about130,000, were culled in Alappuzha district, followed by Kottayam (6,000) and Pathanamthitta (5,000).

To find out whether humans have been infected by the virus, the health workers visited 88,120 houses and 300,000 people were examined. A separate isolation ward had been set up at Kottayam and Alappuzha Medical College hospitals, said state health minister V S Sivakumar, who was also present in the review meeting. The government would draft an action plan for preventing spread of the virus through water bodies.


Apart from the earlier announcement of providing compensation to the owners of birds that are culled, the meeting also decided to provide compensation for the birds that died of the disease before the confirmation of the outbreak. A total of Rs 84 lakh has been disbursed as compensation till now.

About bird flu
According to the World Health Organization, there are many subtypes of avian influenza viruses, but only some subtypes have been dangerous for humans. These are H5N1, H7N3, H7N7, H7N9, and H9N2.

H5N1 has caused deaths of nearly 400 people and hundreds of millions of poultry after it spread from Asia into Europe and Africa in 2005-2006.

Germany, the Netherlands and Britain were hit last month by the H5N8 bird flu strain which has devastated flocks of poultry in Asia, mainly South Korea, earlier this year but has never been detected in humans. At least one person, an elderly woman in China's Jiangxi province, is reported to have died of infection by H10N8 strain.

Most human contractions of the avian flu are a result of either handling dead infected birds or from contact with infected fluids. Although it is easy for humans to become infected from birds, it's much more difficult to do so from human to human without close and lasting contact.

While most wild birds mainly have only a mild form of the H5N1 strain, domesticated birds such as ducks and chickens are infected, it could become much more deadly because the birds are often within close contact of one another.

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