Monday, January 21, 2019

Study gives new insights into avian influenza in Bangladesh

  • Senior Correspondent
    Published: 2018-05-08 19:52:11 BdST


A study based on icddr,b’s decade-long surveillance has shed new light on the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus in Bangladesh.

The virus which is commonly known as bird flu in Bangladesh is not considered a threat in the country.

But the 2007 to 2018 surveillance in both communities and live-bird markets suggests that the virus circulates round the year in Bangladesh.

“We have to closely monitor to identify avian influenza outbreaks at firm level,” said Dr Sukanta Chowdhury, an assistant scientist of icddr,b’s Infectious Diseases Division, while presenting a paper at a workshop on Tuesday.

The Department of Livestock Services and the Zoonotic Diseases Research Group of Programme for Emerging Infections under the Infectious Diseases Division of icddr,b co-organised the workshop to share findings from research on different zoonotic diseases, including avian influenza.

Avian influenza drew a lot of attention back in 2007-08 when it first hit Bangladesh.

Hundreds of thousands of poultry birds were culled. Later in 2011, it came back. One child died in 2013.

The government used to compensate farmers for culling sick birds in order to encourage them to report the illness which has the potential to cause a pandemic situation.

But after the 2012 when the compensation package was stopped due to a fund crisis, the issue began to lose attention.

Officials said this year they detected only one outbreak so far.

But icddr,b’s research suggests many more could be left undiagnosed.

It tested 8,246 waterfowls from the live bird markets during their surveillance period. Of them, 7 percent were found influenza-positive.

“Due to the pandemic potential, 7 percent means a lot. It is not like the other diseases. In many countries, even 1 percent is taken very seriously,” Chowdhury said, adding that the virus is constantly circulating in the air.

He said they also found the influenza virus positive in both commercial chicken and backyard chicken. “Even we found the virus in stools of healthy chicken that means they are shedding the virus without our knowledge.”

The findings also revealed the presence of the virus in the environment where the poultry is slaughtered. Poultry workers were also found suffering from the avian influenza, but none of them were hospitalised.

“The issue warrants more monitoring.”

But the human surveillance component of icddr,b was stopped in 2017 due to a fund crisis. Chowdhury said the US CDC due to its fund crisis is now funding only the poultry surveillance.

“But you have to see it as ‘one health’ approach as the disease transmits to human from the poultry. So we have to do that [human surveillance],” he said.

Experts and senior government officials, including Fisheries and Livestock Secretary Raisul Alam Mondol, spoke at the workshop.