India Intelligence Report

Bird flu is back


Just as the Government claimed that the dreaded H5N1 bird flu was contained to Navapur district, fresh reports surfaced of an outbreak in Jalgaon district adjoining Navapur. The Maharashtra Government swung into action and a spokesperson claimed that some birds had died “very close” to the Navapur district border. The samples had been collected and sent to Bhopal-based High Security Animal Disease Laboratory (HSADL) “about 10 days back.” This means that even though one branch of Government was claiming a successful containment, another branch knew of possible spread of the disease but did not alert the public of possible dangers. Four of these samples have tested positive.

One of the four was a commercial bird while the others were backyard poultry. The latter category means poultry grown by farmers for personal consumption or local market sale and may not be sold in large numbers.  This prompted Government servants to say that the epidemic will not spread beyond this area.


The Government continued with its cavalier attitude saying that it will dispatch 50 Rapid Response Teams to carry out culling, disposal, and cleanup operations. While the authorities say that only 4000-5000 birds exist in the area, an independent report says that the number is close to 75,000. After culling operations were over in Navapur, the Public Health Minister Vimal Mundada categorically insisted that the scare was over and now a Government spokesperson trivialized the issue saying that the infected area was “very small.” The spokesperson claimed “the virus remained dormant for sometime before becoming active again.” The Federal Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar named 4 villages in Jalgaon as being affected.

The Government has no system in place to monitor avian life, educate population on the danger of the epidemic, sample birds, proactively report findings, and take remedial steps. A Non-Government Organization based out of Mumbai has been studying the trends but it is not clear how many scientists they have on the field or their methodology. Still there is no data to show how the epidemic showed up in the Western part of India. The Government had promised a epidemiological study to pinpoint the origins of the disease in India but no data is forthcoming about this proposed study, its timetable, or findings.

Meanwhile, poultry industry, politicians with interests in poultry farming, bureaucrats, and cine actors have been actively promoting poultry as safe. They have distributed free chicken in many cities. The Government seems to have an ostrich mentality to the disease believing that hiding data and information is better to full disclosure.

It is only in India that the Government claims that the disease has not spread. Russia, Nigeria, Europe, Turkey, and China have reported rapid spread of disease.