Even as Delhi hobbles back to normalcy after the chikungunya and dengue health scare that reached endemic proportions last month, the national capital faces yet another health exigency in the form of bird flu.
The government is monitoring bird sanctuaries and the Gazipur Murga Mandi, the sole meat market that caters to the entire city.
“Samples from the mandi and other sources have been sent for testing to Regional Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (RDDL), Jalandhar and High Security Animal Disease Laboratory (HSADL), Bhopal and the results are expected on Saturday,” a government source said.
It remains to be seen if the rickety health services system of the city (and the country) — that was found wanting just a few weeks back during the dengue and chikungunya outbreak had hit the population — will be prepared enough to deal with a crisis if any.
However, ever since the first outbreak of bird flu in India a decade ago — in Gujarat and Maharashtra in February 2005 — India has never had a human case of H5N1 viral infection even though there has been an outbreak of the disease almost every other year.
Delhi’s development minister Gopal Rai has requested the citizens to not panic as the virus doesn't seem to have entered the food chain yet.
Despite the minister's reassurance, is there no cause for concern?
A stroll around any area of the city is enough proof that municipal services in the city are not at their international best, as should be the case considering that Delhi is the capital of a nation that is being heavily promoted as an investment destination globally. Is Delhi ready to take on the world as a global capital or is just another Third World city that has more negatives than positives?
The Supreme Court too has come down heavily on the AAP government on garbage piling up in the city and for poor sanitation. The apex court has expressed concern over bird flu scare in the national capital.
While the bird flu panic is slowly spreading, the experts strongly feel that it’s high time that the government should come up with an advisory with ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ on bird flu.
“The central government should issue an advisory with ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ to combat bird flu across the country. It’s not just limited to Delhi. District magistrates and district forest officials should be sensitised. Moreover, awareness regarding avian flu needs to be created especially among children, so as to avoid any panic,” Anand Arya, an environment expert, specialising on birds told Firstpost.
Source of avian (bird) flu scare
The scare of avian flu (official name of bird flu) originated in Delhi after the Delhi zoo reported over a dozen of dead birds on its premises. It was followed by death of birds at Deer Park, Hauz Khas and near a water body at Sundar Nagar. Besides, local birds, migratory birds died in zoo premises. While, the RDDL Jalandhar detected symptoms of the virus in the samples of carcasses of birds tested, Bhopal’s HSADL confirmed H5N1 virus in three birds. H5N1 is the virus that causes bird flu.
- Delhi Zoo: 12 birds found dead. (Of these three are confirmed bird flu cases).
- Deer Park: 5 birds found dead.
- Sundar Nagar: 3 crows found dead.
- Gwalior Zoo: 15 birds found dead. (The aerial distance between Gwalior and Delhi is only 285 km).
Source of Bird flu virus (H5N1)
Bird flu virus already exists in dormant state in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, China and Russia border. It can become active. The other source is a migratory bird. The virus infects and kills wild birds and domestic poultry.
“Nearly 225 migratory species visit India every year and it starts in September. We get migratory birds in almost all the 7.57 lakh wetlands in the country. It's serious if any of the flock gets infected,” said Arya.
- First confirmed and notified case of H5N1 outbreak in India was reported in Gujarat and Maharashtra in February 2005.
- The second outbreak — a major one was in March-April 2006 in Madhya Pradesh — where more than 10 lakh poultry birds were culled.
- In 2007, it was in Manipur, followed by West Bengal in 2008. More than 40 lakh birds were killed in Bengal.
- In the consecutive years, outbreak occurred in Tripura, Odisha, Sikkim, Assam and Bihar.
- The last bird flu outbreak was reported in 2015 in Kerala.
- In 2005, 50-60 birds were found dead at Okhla Bird Park in Delhi, which created a panic. However, after post-mortem it was found that the birds died after consuming poisonous feed used to catch fish.
- In India, no case of bird flu infecting human has been reported yet.
- Large-scale culling of poultry birds took place in a decade causing huge financial loss to poultry business.
Can I consume egg and chicken?
According to experts, no case of bird flu has been reported in poultry so far. It’s safe to consume properly cooked egg and chicken.
“Most bacteria and virus can’t survive high heat. Instead of consuming cold meat, it’s preferable to have properly cooked, roasted chicken and eggs in the form of boiled and omelet,” advised Arya.
What government has done so far?
- Delhi government has started a helpline number (011-2389 0318) where citizens can report cases of bird flu and seek help.
- Large number of samples has been taken from zoos, bird sanctuaries and poultry markets and sent for testing.
- Municipal corporations have deployed teams to check flu.
- Delhi government is keeping a strict vigil on poultry market.
- Delhi minister Gopal Rai said that Delhi government is well-equipped with medicines to deal with the situation.
- Central Zoo Authority is conducting inspection of zoo enclosures.
- Delhi Zoo and Deer Park have been shut down.
According to medical experts, one shouldn’t touch a dead bird or the carcass and keep a safe distance. It should immediately be reported to authorities concerned.
Physical contact with bird droppings should be avoided, because any bird can be an infected one. Extreme care should be taken while clearing droppings, because most human infection is from close contact with sick or dead infected poultry or droppings.
- Any one suffering from fever must take medical advice.
- Avoid spreading of rumours and panic.
Updated Date: Oct 22, 2016 11:58 AM