The confirmation of H5 in the waterfowl in Kerala, India (Kottayam, Alappuzha, see map) increases the likelihood that these birds will be infected with H5N8 that matches the sequences from outbreaks in Germany, Netherlands, and England (A/turkey/Germany-MV/R2472/2014, A/Ch/Netherlands/14015526, A/duck/England/36254/14) in Europe was well as Japan (A/duck/Chiba/26-372-48/2014 and A/duck/Chiba/26-372-61/2014).

The five sets of sequences are from collections in November and are virtually identical, supporting spread by migrating birds. Wild birds in Japan (Tundra swans) and Germany (common Teal) have been PCR confirmed, and the Teal has been sequence confirmed (partial H5 and N8 sequences exactly match the turkey sequences in Germany).

Minister for Animal Husbandry of India, mr. K.P. Mohanan said on Monday that the H5 Avian Influenza virus had been confirmed in samples sent to the High Security Animal Disease (HSAD) Laboratory, Bhopal, India. The strain spreads between birds and can potentially affect humans.

A communication issued by H.R. Khanna, Assistant Commissioner, Union Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries (DADF), directed the State to carry out control and containment operations in the wake of the outbreak. The State has been asked to constitute teams for the purpose. A red alert has been issued in Kottayam and Alappuzha districts where the disease outbreak was noticed in ducks. Four panchayats, Aimanam, Purakkad, Kumarakom, and Thalavadi have been affected.

The Minister said affected birds would be culled from Tuesday to prevent the spread of the disease. Farmers would be compensated after assessing the extent of loss. He said directions had been issued to restrict the transportation of ducks and eggs from Alappuzha to other districts. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has convened a high-level meeting on Tuesday to discuss the steps to be taken to control the outbreak of bird flu.

Meanwhile, officials in the Animal Husbandry Department are accused of sleeping on repeated alerts from farmers in Alappuzha district highlighting the possibility of a major outbreak over the last one week. A highly placed source in the government said the department had failed to anticipate the crisis and take precautionary measures. In another related incident, 22 ducks brought from Alappuzha by a farmer at Mylakkara, near Kallikad, in Thiruvananthapuram were reported to have died on Saturday.

The presence of H5N8 in India would increase the similarities between H5N8 spread in 2014 and H5N1 spread in 2005/2006. Although initial reports in late 2005 were largely limited to eastern Europe, the number of confirmed H5N1 dramatically increased in early 2006 after H5N1 as confirmed in cases in Turkey. Cases were subsequently confirmed in humans in Azerbaijan, Iraq, Egypt, and Nigeria, while poultry outbreaks were confirmed in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa as well as south Asia, including India.

The parallels with 2005/2006 strongly suggests that the H5 in India will be H5N8 and this novel sub-clade will found in additional countries in Europe, the Middles East, Africa, and south Asia in upcoming weeks or months.

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