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India's Second Human Bird Flu Case Confirmed by WHO; Know the Implications for the Poultry Industry

On Tuesday, June 11, 2024, the second human case of avian influenza in West Bengal, caused by the A(H9N2) virus, was reported by WHO.

Shreetu Singh
India's Second Human Bird Flu Case Confirmed by WHO; Know the Implications for the Poultry Industry, Image Source: Pexel
India's Second Human Bird Flu Case Confirmed by WHO; Know the Implications for the Poultry Industry, Image Source: Pexel

Alarms are rising about the virus's implications for public health and the poultry industry. Recently, a case emerged involving a 4-year-old child from West Bengal who initially experienced fever and abdominal pain. Subsequently, the child developed severe respiratory distress and seizures. Despite initial positive tests for influenza B and adenovirus, further diagnostic tests confirmed avian influenza A(H9N2) on May 22, 2024. This development comes after India's first reported human case of avian influenza A(H5N1) in 2019. 

Following intensive care treatment, including intubation and supportive care, the child has successfully recovered. Recent updates indicate the child has been discharged from the hospital and is under medical monitoring. 

Such cases come into light and not only affect human health but also the poultry industry. In response to this issue, Siddharth, a shopkeeper from a poultry farm in New Delhi, shared, “During the initial spread of bird flu, we faced a tremendous decrease in consumer demand, which severely affected our income. Over time, we managed to recover, but hearing such news again creates a fear of returning to that difficult phase or experiencing something worse.”

Further, it is noticed that local and international markets are advised to impose restrictions on poultry imports and exports from regions affected by avian influenza. Such measures aim to prevent the spread of the virus through poultry trade, which could disrupt supply chains and undermine consumer confidence in poultry products. Raj Mishra, a salesperson from a poultry farm in Maharashtra, suggests, "With proper testing and maintenance, safe export and import of poultry are feasible. There should be stringent testing protocols enforced by competent committees to ensure the safety of poultry trade." 

Moreover Raja Singh, owner of a poultry farm - RB Organic added, “Whenever such news spreads, we receive orders to cull birds, it creates havoc. However, if farmers maintain proper hygiene and implement biosecurity measures, the risk of avian flu can be minimized, ensuring consumer safety. Thus, I urge fellow farmers to prioritize hygiene to address and eliminate this issue.”

On the other hand, Ram Kishore, a poultry farmer from Bihar mentioned, “We struggle to arrange funds for feeding and housing our poultry. Implementing biosecurity measures requires substantial financial resources. I request the government to address these issues to sustain our operations effectively.”

While avian influenza A (H9N2) typically causes mild illness in humans, its presence in poultry remains a concern due to its potential to mutate and cause more severe outbreaks. WHO continues to monitor the situation closely, providing guidance to prevent the spread of avian influenza viruses globally. 

As the affected child recovers, health authorities emphasize the importance of early detection, prompt medical intervention, and public awareness in mitigating the impact of avian influenza. Efforts are ongoing to protect both human and animal health from emerging infectious diseases, showcasing the need for collaborative efforts between health authorities, the poultry industry, and the public to address these challenges effectively.

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