Senior Health Ministry officials in India said that the country is at “low risk” from both the avian influenza case reported from China as well as the clusters of respiratory illness. Nonetheless, the country is prepared “for any kind of exigency that may emerge from the current situation”, they said.  “The Union Health Ministry is closely monitoring outbreak of H9N2 and clusters of respiratory illness in children in China,” the official said| 

The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) is discussing preparedness measures against human cases of Avian Influenza in the country against the backdrop of a human case of H9N2 (Avian influenza virus) in October 2023 in China that was reported to WHO (World Health Organisation).

Reportedly surveillance is on at airport and action will be taken on a case-to-case basis.

Based on the currently available information, an increase in incidence of respiratory diseases in China has been reported in the last few weeks. The usual causes of respiratory illness in children have been implicated and there has been no identification of an unusual pathogen or any unexpected clinical manifestations, the official said.

Low case fertility

The overall risk assessment by WHO indicates a low probability of human-to-human spread and low case fatality rate among human cases of H9N2 reported to organisation so far, a statement from the Union Health Ministry said on Friday. 

However, officials said the Ministry is strengthening surveillance among human, animal husbandry and wildlife sectors. India is prepared for any kind of public health exigency, the officials said. 

“Incidentally, the indications from China is that this is a seasonal ailment and not zoonotic,” the official said adding that so far Chinese officials have explaind to WHO that the cause of surge in pneumonia cases among cases is “because of known germs” and “not any novel virus”.

“We are keeping a track on the developments and trying to source more information,” the official added.

India is embarking on a One Health approach to adopt a holistic and integrated roadmap towards addressing such public health issues. 

In addition, India’s surveillance and detection networks under Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) have rich experience of dealing with challenging health situations during the Covid-19 pandemic, the official said. 

So far, 254-odd Covid variants in the country, including Omicron sub-variants, have been detected as per genome sequencing data available with the Ministry. Indian vaccines are “effective” on “all” the variants. “Right now Covid is endemic in India,” the official said.