Emergencies preparedness, response

Avian influenza – situation in India – update

23 February 2006

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in India has informed WHO that no human cases of H5N1 infection have been detected to date. Tests conducted on samples taken from persons under investigation and their close contacts have yielded no positive results as of today.

Testing has been undertaken at the National Institute of Virology in Pune and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases in Delhi.

It was not clear if samples from a 27-year-old poultry worker from Gujarat State, said to have died of respiratory disease on 17 February, were among those tested.

In India, as in all countries experiencing their first outbreaks of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza, WHO strongly recommends that patient samples be sent to a WHO collaborating laboratory for diagnostic confirmation. Certainty about the status of human cases in a newly affected country is important for accurate risk assessment.

In addition, analyses conducted by WHO-approved laboratories can yield information about the possible evolution of the virus and clues about how the virus may have arrived in the country. Genetic and antigenic studies of circulating viruses also help ensure that work on the development of a pandemic vaccine stays on track.