New Delhi: India this winter faces threat from China in the forms of migrating birds like wild duck and fowl spreading the deadly avian flu virus this winter.
"These wild ducks and fowls are natural reservoirs of avian flu and unlike chicken, they don't die of it. When these birds come in contact with domestic chicken, they spread the virus," said Mr.V.S. Chauhan, Director of International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (IOGEB).
Since the year 2003, there have been 117 cases of the virus infecting humans in the south east Asian countries. Of these 60 people have died. Around 140 million domestic birds have either died or have been culled to curb the spread of the avian flu virus.
An estimated five to twenty million migratory birds feed and spend time on 90 wetlands, likes lakes etc., in India every year.
In his presentation he added that the real threat was when 'the infected chicken spread the virus to pigs', which are "great mixing vessels of virus" and can then pose risk to humans. And once the virus spreads to pigs, it is only a matter of time before the H5N1 type avian flu mutates and affects humans.
So far India has been spared so far but the danger of outbreak is always lurking. Indian authorities have already stepped up vigil and about 3,500 dead birds have been tested at the high-security lab in Bhopal for H5N1 virus.
A vigilance cell has been set up and poultry farmers in various parts of the country near the lakes have been told to keep check to prevent exposure to wild birds and report any suspicious deaths of chicken.
The poultry, being very susceptible, easily contract the virus and can die within hours to three days unlike in the case of humans where death can occur in six to eight days unless treated at the onset.
According to Chauhan, the cases of human infections recorded so far have shown that the respiratory tract gets affected by the third day making the treatment very difficult.
India plans to allow one of the Hyderabad-based pharmaceutical company to produce Tamiflu, a drug by Swiss pharmaceutical major Roche that covers all the three existing human influence virus.