H5N8 Avian Influenza in India


Just one month after being declared free from the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of Avian Influenza, India reported several outbreaks of a different strain, H5N8 [1]. The National Delhi Zoological Park in New Delhi reported deaths of nine water birds, including painted storks, ducks and pelicans, which were believed to have migrated locally [2]. In another instance, the H5N8 strain was confirmed in several ducks that died at the Blue Bird Tourist Complex in Hisar, Haryana [3, 5]. Apart from the outbreaks reported in northern states of India, H5N8 outbreaks were also reported in two separate farms in Kerala, a southernmost state in India. 115 birds died on these two farms between 19th October 2016 and 23rd October 2016 [3]. According to the Indian officials, the outbreaks were caused by the same strain, H5N8, found in Punjab, Gwalior and Kerala.


To date, no human cases or deaths from H5N8 strain of avian influenza have been detected, and the World Health Organization concludes that the risk of human infection is low [2,6].


Control Measures:


The officials have temporarily shut down the zoo in New Delhi, India. In Kerala, around 21,000 birds were destroyed to contain the spread of the infection to domestic poultry and to human handlers [1].  The control measures applied in the radius of one kilometer around the outbreak locations and included culling an entire poultry population and destroying all poultry products, including eggs, feed, and litter.


Further control measures included restriction on movement of poultry and poultry products, disinfections and cleaning up of infected premises, and quarantine [2,3]. To be prepared for an outbreak in humans, Government of India has stocked up sufficient amount of Tamiflu (Oseltamivir) and has ensured adequate availability of flu masks [2]. The Department of Animal Husbandry has set up biosafety laboratories [2].



[1] Government of India. India Declares itself Free from Avian Influenza (H5N1). [Updated: September 14, 2016]. Available from:



[2] The Indian Express. Avian Influenza: Bird disease that can be deadly but you won’t get it by eating chicken. [Updated: October 24, 2016] Available from:



[3] CIDRAP. Three nations report avian flu in wild birds, poultry. [Updated: November 4, 2016] Available from:



[4] OIE. Immediate notification report,6 Report reference: REF OIE 21439, Report Date: 04/11/2016, Country : India [Updated: November 4, 2016]. Available from: http://www.oie.int/wahis_2/public%5C..%5Ctemp%5Creports/en_imm_0000021439_20161104_124026.pdf


[5] OIE. Immediate notification report, Report reference: REF OIE 21461, Report Date: 08/11/2016, Country : India [Updated: November 8, 2016]. Available from:http://www.oie.int/wahis_2/public%5C..%5Ctemp%5Creports/en_imm_0000021461_20161109_124919.pdf


[6] http://www.who.int/influenza/human_animal_interface/avian_influenza/riskassessment_AH5N8_201611/en/

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