Vulture Die-Off In India -
More H5N1?

From Patricia Doyle, PhD
Hello, Jeff - We hear about reports from India of cattle possibly dying from H5, and we hear reports of loss of poultry, we then hear about vulture die off in India. My best guess is the vultures probably have whatever the cattle, migratory birds and poultry have. Doesn't take a genius to figure that one out.
A ProMED mail post
ProMED-mail, a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
A total of 38-40 white-backed vultures [WBVs] have been reported dead since 18 May 2005 from the Mahua vulture colony in the Bhavnagar District of Gujarat. 140-142 WBVs were spotted in this colony during a vulture census conducted by GEER Foundation in Gujarat.
A few days before this incident, there was a mass mortality of birds in 50-60 poultry farms around the colony. There is a report of more than 100 000 - 150 000 poultry deaths due to the highly infectious viral disease, ranikhet [Newcastle disease].
The vulture colony is situated very close to these poultry farms, and after their death, these ranikhet-affected poultry were not buried but were thrown in an open area nearby. Our information tells us this is a airborne disease, so this is very likely the reason that vultures were affected with ranikhet in this area.
We request the attention of forest officials and other officers in this matter and hope that detailed investigations will be done very soon.

Amit B. Jethava
Gir Nature Youth Club
Gujarat State
Att: Khambha, Di: Amreli
Pin:365650 (Gujarat) India.
If it was the virus affecting the chickens, the vultures may have acquired it through consumption of the carcasses (rather than by airborne spread). It could also be that the vultures' demise is unrelated to the poultry.
Previously, in ProMED-mail post 20030513459, it was reported that "the catastrophic decline of griffon vultures in south Asia is being caused not by a mysterious disease, as had been thought, but a common painkiller given to sick cattle." I am not aware that this drug is also used on poultry, but perhaps in India, it may be. Clearly, this more recent die-off needs more thorough investigation.
For additional information regarding the White-backed Vulture of India, please see: Indian White-backed Vulture - Gyps bengalensis - Mod.TG]
Ranikhet disease is one of the names given to Newcastle disease (NCD), a paramyxovirus infection initially reported from Java in 1926, followed soon by outbreaks in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK, Ranikhet in India, and Colombo in Sri Lanka. Other names given to NCD over the years include fowl pest, pseudofowl pest, and avian pneumoencephalitis. - Mod.AS
Patricia A. Doyle, PhD
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