What is bird flu? Its history, symptoms and treatment

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Bird flu has been seen in many species such as wild geese in Himachal Pradesh, crows in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and ducks in Kerla. In Haryana, one lakh poultry birds have died in the last few days because of this disease.

A bird flu alert has been surrounded in Rajasthan where over 250 crows were found dead in half a dozen districts. In Himachal Pradesh’s pong Dam Lake, around 1,800 birds were found dead. In Kerla, the flu has been detected in two districts.

What is Bird Flu/Avian Influenza?

It is a highly contagious viral disease caused by Influenza Type A viruses which normally affects poultry birds. There are many strains of this virus.

How does this flu spread?

Wild aquatic birds such as geese and ducks are the natural reservoir of bird flu and the central players in the ecology of these viruses.

Some birds carry the flu without developing symptoms of sickness and shed it in their droppings. Since birds excrete during flying, they provide a nice aerosol of influenza virus, shedding it all over the world.

From water birds to who migrate, the flu spread to poultry and terrestrial birds.
Sometimes, the virus jumps over to animals such as horse, pig, cats and dogs.

When and how did the bird flu start infecting humans?

Bird flu has been affecting birds from decades. But it was in 1997 when humans are first known to have contracted bird flu following an outbreak in a live bird market in Hong Kong. It was the H5N1 strain of the virus and 6 out of 18 humans died.

Does it spread easily in humans?

No, it does not. Generally, people coming in contact with infected or dead birds have contracted the H5N1 virus, and it doesn’t usually spread from people to people, as per WHO. The flu can not be spread to people through properly cooked poultry food. The virus is sensitive to heat and dies in temperature.

Then why the scare?

H5N1 is severe and deadly. Around 6 out of 10 infected humans have led to death.
If the virus mutates and becomes easily transmissible then it can be cause a pandemic.

Bird flu in India?

In India, no case of bird flu in human has been detected so far.
The department of animal husbandry reported 25 episodes of the H5N1 virus in poultry in 15 states from 2006 till 2005. It has also been detected in crows.

What is it’s symptoms and treatment?

If it attacks the respiratory tract of human, may cause severe respiratory illnesses. Its early symptoms include cough, fever, sore throat and abdominal pain and diarrhoea.

An antiviral drug, especially oseltamivir, improve the prospects of survival in humans.

The ministry advises people working in poultry to use PPEs and follow hand hygiene.


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