New Delhi: Norway and Finland are facing record outbreaks of bird flu this year which have killed thousands of seagulls and other species, put livestock at risk, and restricted travel in some areas, officials said.
What is bird flu?
- Bird flu, or avian influenza, is a viral infection that can affect birds and sometimes mammals.
- There are many strains of bird flu, but the most dangerous one for humans is H5N1, which can cause severe respiratory illness and death.
- H5N1 can spread from birds to humans through direct contact with infected poultry or contaminated surfaces, or through inhalation of droplets from sick birds.
- H5N1 has circulated throughout Europe in recent years, leading to a cull in May and June of millions of birds on French farms alone and affecting the supply of poultry meat and eggs.
How did the outbreak start?
- The outbreak started in Norway’s Finnmark county, where officials said they had collected more than 10,000 dead birds in the area.
- The Norwegian Food Safety Authority imposed a travel ban covering three nature reserves to prevent further spread of the virus.
- The chief veterinary officer at the Norwegian Food Safety Authority, Ole-Herman Tronerud, said: “The outbreaks we are seeing in various places in Finnmark this year are much larger than we have seen in the past in Norway.”
- The virus was identified as H5N1, which has also been found in 20 fur farms in neighboring Finland, up from 12 earlier this week.
- Finland’s Ministry of social affairs and Health said: “The pathogen was confirmed as a variant circulating especially among the seagulls.”
What are the risks and consequences?
- Bird flu can pose a threat to human health if it mutates to become more easily transmissible between people.
- Three U.N. agencies this month warned that outbreaks globally raised concerns that the virus might adapt to infect humans more easily, and urged countries to strengthen disease surveillance and improve hygiene at poultry farms.
- The World Health Organization has said that the risk to humans from H5N1 remains low but said reports of infections in mammals needed to be monitored closely.
- Bird flu can also have a negative impact on the economy and the environment, as it can affect trade, tourism, wildlife, and biodiversity.
What are the measures being taken?
- Norway and Finland have implemented strict biosecurity measures to prevent further spread of the virus among birds and animals.
- They have also increased testing and surveillance of wild birds and poultry farms and alerted the public to report any suspicious cases.
- They have also advised people to avoid contact with sick or dead birds and to wash their hands thoroughly after handling any animals.
- They have also cooperated with other European countries and international organizations to share information and coordinate responses.