Bird flu
Bird flu outbreak in India caused by strain humans can contract - OIE.Reuters

A bird flu virus found in India this week is the H5N1 strain that can be transmitted to humans, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said on Thursday.

However, the organisation said it was not concerned about the situation, because India had faced outbreaks of the virus before. No human case has been reported since at least 2003.

India has found thousands of dead ducks infected by a highly contagious bird flu virus in the southern state of Kerala, prompting the authorities to cull more than 200,000 birds.

In a report submitted to the OIE, the Indian farm ministry had said the fowl had died of an H5 variant of the virus but did not specify the strain. A follow-up report posted on the OIE website showed the ministry had now identified it as H5N1.

The H5N1 strain can be fatal to humans. It caused the deaths of nearly 400 people and hundreds of millions of poultry after it spread from Asia into Europe and Africa in 2005 and 2006.

Since 2006, India has culled 6.4 million birds because of bird flu, OIE Director General Bernard Vallat told Reuters this week. The latest outbreaks were not a particular cause for concern, he said.

According to the latest available World Animal Health data, no human cases of H5N1 were confirmed in India during the period reviewed, from 2003 to Oct. 2 this year. The OIE was also not aware of any people that had been infected by this outbreak.

However, the flu cases in India were not related to a wave of cases that hit Europe in recent weeks.

Germany, the Netherlands and Britain were struck by another highly pathogenic bird flu strain, H5N8. It devastated flocks in Asia, mainly South Korea, earlier this year but has never been detected in humans.