Daily Current Affairs for 20th February 2023

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Why environmental surveillance for avian influenza is vital?

Why in News?

  • Scotland has been recently decimated by avian influenza (H5N1) or bird flu. H5N1 has caused unprecedented loss of tens of thousands of birds in the U.K.

What is Avian Influenza (H5N1)?

  • Avian influenza or bird flu refers to the disease caused by infection with avian (bird) influenza (flu) Type A viruses.
  • H5N1 refers to the subtypes of surface antigens present on the virushemagglutinin type 5 and neuraminidase type 1.
  • These viruses naturally spread among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species.
  • Bird flu viruses do not normally infect humans. However, sporadic human infections with bird flu viruses have occurred.

What is the impact of the virus?

  • Birds infected with avian influenza virus shed large quantities of virus in their faeces, saliva and nasal secretions for about a week.
  • Wild aquatic birds in the Orders Anseriformes and Charadriiformes are the primordial reservoir for the virus.
  • The transmission of the virus within these wild bird populations is dependent on faecal/oral transmission via contaminated water.
  • Avian influenza viruses can remain viable for extended periods of time in surface water and carcasses, suggesting that lakes and wetlands can act as environmental reservoirs at variable temperatures for several months.
  • Domestic ducks are recognised as an important reservoir for H5N1.

Avian Influenza in India

  • India was declared free of Avian Influenza (H5N1) in 2019, which was also reported to the International Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
  • Nonetheless, outbreaks of avian influenza H5N1 and H5N8 in poultry were observed in 15 Indian states between December 2020 and early 2021.

Need for Environmental Surveillance

  • Surveillance network for influenza is needed across multiple sites to improve understanding on virus diversity, and seasonal and geographical distribution of virus in the environment.
  • Environmental surveillance would be a great non-invasive tool that can be done without disturbing the birds and can be used to obtain both host and viral genetic material.
  • Environmental surveillance is an important area that can enhance the information on prevalence diversity of avian influenza viruses in free-ranging domestic flocks or under confinement conditions where faeces or other effluent are deposited into the environment.
  • The surveillance needs to target the locations where spillover is most likely.

GS Paper III News

Amorphous Ice

  • Recently, scientists discovered a new sort of ice that matches the density and structure of water, perhaps opening the door to more research into the enigmatic qualities of water. The ice is referred to as medium-density amorphous ice.

What is Amorphous ice?

  • Amorphous ice is an amorphous solid form of water.
  • Property: Amorphous ices have the property of suppressing long-range density fluctuations and are, therefore, nearly hyperuniform.
  • Almost all ice in the universe is amorphous and in a form called low-density amorphous ice.
  • This forms when water condenses onto dust grains in space.
  • Comets are amorphous ice as well.


  • It is used in cryo-electron microscopy of biomolecules as a means of preservation of the delicate sample without it being destroyed by ice crystal formation (which would happen if it was just frozen normally).
  • The individual molecules can be preserved for imaging in a state close to what they are in liquid water.

GS Paper III News

Mammatus Clouds

Why in News?

  • NASA has published images of Mammatus clouds that seem like bubbles from the bottom lingering over Nebraska, a state in the United States’ Midwestern area.

What are Mammatus Clouds?

  • Mammatus clouds are some of the most unusual and distinctive clouds formations with a series of bulges or pouches emerging from the base of a cloud.
  • The shapes of mammatus formations can vary greatly.
  • These clouds can range from the typical bulging shape to a more elongated tube dangling from the cloud above.

How do mammatus clouds form?

  • Mammatus clouds are usually formed in association with large cumulonimbus clouds.
  • Typically, turbulence within the cumulonimbus cloud will cause mammatus to form, especially on the underside of the projecting anvil as it rapidly descends to lower levels.
  • This reverses the usual cloud-forming process of upward growth, making for an uneven cloud base.

What clouds are associated with mammatus?

  • Mammatus usually form on the base of a cumulonimbus anvil, but they have also been sighted to form on other cloud types, such as stratocumulus, altostratus and altocumulus.
  • Mammatus have also been observed to form on the underside of volcanic ash clouds.

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