Tuesday 6 December 2011

Highly pathogenic H5N1 virus Found in Indian Crows

The Indian house crow, Corvus splendens, is centered in India, and extends from Iran in the west to Burma in the east. However, the bird was introduced into Africa in the 1890s, reportedly via Zanzibar, where it was brought to help keep the island free of rubbish. It subsequently spread along the coast of East Africa by hitching lifts on ships, and is now found right down to Cape Town at the southern tip of Africa. The crow also inhabits parts of the North African coast bordering the Suez Canal in Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea. I saw them in the parks of Suez city in the north of Egypt and can recognise this species of crow that usually occurs in urban and suburban environments and in close association with humans but, as yet, I have not seen them in Iraq.

Corvus splendens
I hope these dying crows are not Indian house crows I have seen these nasty birds all over East Africa and the Indian Ocean. I first came across them in Aden (South Yemen) in 1984 when I was on a mission with FAO. I saw the methods FAO was using to control this species involving the poisoning of eggs that were then offered to these birds as bait to eradicate them. They were nasty, noisy creatures that protected each other. I witnessed the killing of small ruminants by these birds who pecked out their victims' eyes and I also saw crows tearing off the mesh wire that protected the windows of the poultry houses in order to get at the poultry eggs.

This story of Indian Crows infected with Avian Flu to be taken seriously it might be a recipe for disaster.

Talib Murad Ali Elam,DVM,PhD,
Advisor for Food Security & Agriculture to H E The Prime Minister,
Kurdistan Regional Government, KRG- Erbil-Iraq

Avian flu killing Jharkhand crows: virology institute India
Published on Down To Earth : (http://www.downtoearth.org.in)
Author(s): Dinsa Sachan
 Issue Date: 2011-12-3

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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