Scientists investigating bird flu outbreak in northern Bangladesh crows

The government has deployed a large team of scientists who work on humans and animals, livestock experts, and anthropologists to northern Rajshahi district after an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza has been found in crows.

Nurul Islam
Published : 18 Feb 2016, 03:04 PM
Updated : 18 Feb 2016, 07:15 PM

Director Prof Mahmudur Rahman of the government’s disease monitoring arm, IEDCR, told that the team started got down to business on Wednesday.
He said the team rushed to the spot after laboratory testing confirmed the crows had H5N1 avian influenza, which is commonly known as bird flu.
The testing followed the reports of unusual deaths of crows at the premises of Rajshahi Medical College Hospital.

File Photo

Bangladesh first detected the H5N1 virus in poultry in 2007. Thousands of poultry birds were culled.
The rate of reported poultry outbreaks from across the country declined after the government stopped compensation scheme.
Globally, this is highly fatal in human, but in Bangladesh the circulating strain is ‘mild’. It killed one child and infected another eight people since 2008 when the first human case was detected in Bangladesh.
But the World Health Organization still considers this virus as a global “pandemic threat”, and suggests countries remain on alert.

One health approach

Prof Rahman said the team in Rajshahi will trace how the crows contracted the virus, and also look into any human infections.

“We assume it comes (to crows) from the poultry. Crows eat waste and people sometimes litter dead poultry just anywhere.

“And that’s why we have taken ‘one health’ approach in which all departments will work together,” he said.

The department of human health, animal health, livestock, IEDCR, icddr,B, and EcoHealth Alliance are all part of the investigation process, he said.

Virologist Dr ASM Alamgir, who used to work with WHO’s pandemic influenza surveillance and response department, said the virus was very much circulating in Bangladesh’s poultry.

“It’s likely that the crows got it from the poultry,” he told

“Now we have to focus on proper disposal of dead crows. People have to be alerted so that they don’t handle dead crows. This is important for infection control.”

Earlier in 2009 and 2011, such kind of outbreaks in crows were found in Dhamrai and Dhaka.

Four flu viruses including the avian influenza and the H1N1, which is known as swine flu, are circulating in Bangladesh.

But swine flu, after the 2009 outbreak, became a “seasonal influenza” (H1N1) in Bangladesh like the other two viruses – influenza B and H3, and is no longer a major threat, according to the IEDCR.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher