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H5N1 bird flu UPSC NOTE


  • Avian influenza A(H5N1) or H5B1 Bird Flu is a highly pathogenic virus that primarily circulates among birds but can infect mammals.

  • This type of flu is most often contracted by contact with sick birds

  • It can also be passed from person to person.

  • Symptoms begin within two to eight days and can seem like the common flu. 

  • Cough, fever, sore throat, muscle aches, headache and shortness of breath may occur. 

  • Symptoms may worsen into gut issues, breathing issues, or CNS changes

  • Wild birds, including endangered species like California condors, have been severely affected by H5N1.

  • The main species affected used to be chicken.

  • Marine mammals, such as sea lions and dolphins, have suffered mass deaths in regions like Chile and Peru.

  • Mammals like foxes, pumas, bears in North America, and farmed minks in Spain and Finland, have also been infected

Impacts of H5N1

  • The first H5N1 infection spilt over to humans directly from chickens in Hong Kong in 1997

  • In India, the first H5N1 patient was reported in Maharashtra in 2006. 

  • An outbreak in December 2020 and early 2021 spread across 15 States. 

  • This pathogen has crossed many species barriers, causing mortality among the polar bears in the Arctic and seals and seagulls in Antarctica

  • With humans, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the fatality rate for H5N1 at 52%, based on the 463 deaths recorded since 2003 among the 888 people diagnosed with the virus. 


  • Almost all cases of human infection with avian influenza A (H5N1) have been linked to close contact with infected birds, or contaminated environments.

  • These contaminated environments are created by cramming chickens in wired cages, or ‘battery cages’, in high densities

  • The resultant air quality and waste problem has a significant footprint in India due to the odour, particulate matter, and other greenhouse gas emissions. 

CPCB Consent

  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has classified poultry units with more than 5,000 birds as a polluting industry that requires compliance and regulatory consent to establish and operate. 

  • Some poultry industrial units have been issued closure notices by the CPCB for being in violation of the law.

Issues faced by farmers

  • Due to contract farming, large debts and a very specialised skill set, poultry farmers often find it difficult to exit the industry, despite the losses. 

  • However, the myriad problems faced by these farmers often push them out of business. 

  • The farmers suffer due to market volatility and the prevalent practices pushed by industry giants. 

  • For instance, antibiotics are regularly given to birds as a prophylactic and as growth promoters so that more animals can be grown for greater profit. 

  • Experts predict the rising demand for protein will cause a surge in antibiotic use in livestock.

  • Several antibiotics classified as critically important and highly important by the WHO are widely sold to farmers for preventative use. 

  • Prescribed to day-old chicks to reduce the likelihood of disease and mortality, this practice is still being commonly recommended

Health Concerns

  • Animals are heavily stocked in unsanitary conditions. 

  • Not only does this have a detrimental effect on the welfare of animals and the health of those who consume the food derived, but also on the people working at these facilities and residing in the vicinity. 

  • The impact of the emissions in the atmosphere, effluents in the water systems, and solid wastes in the soil generated by these industries is felt by humans, other animals, and the environment. 

  • There is an urgent need for monitoring as well as enforcement of legal and regulatory mechanisms.

  • The faecal matter generated at these facilities is collected periodically by local farmers for use as fertilizer. 

  • The amount of piled-up manure exceeds the carrying capacity of the land and becomes a pollutant. 

  • Farmers complain of their crops getting damaged and piles of waste becoming a breeding ground for disease vectors such as flies

  • Residents are compelled to adopt measures such as spraying insecticides inside homes, leading to breathlessness and a nauseating smell.

  • Keeping animals in intensive confinement constitutes a crime under the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960. 

  • The operational activities at these industrial facilities cause unnecessary pain and suffering to the animals because of mutilation, starvation, thirst, overcrowding, and other ill-treatment, which is also a violation of the PCA Act.



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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: H5N1 bird flu UPSC NOTE
H5N1 bird flu UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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