A ‘Bird’s Eye View’ on Bird Flu in India

The first week of January 2021 witnessed an abnormal number of deaths among the birds, including the wild ones, in India. These deaths have been caused on account of the Avian influenza. The Avian Influenza, also known as ‘the bird flu’ and ‘H5N1’, are strains of the influenza virus that primarily infect birds.

Several reports started coming in that conveyed that the virus is being vigorously transmitted among the birds. There is a possibility that humans could also get affected if they get in touch with such affected birds.

With state government being alarmed to prevent the next outbreak, extra precautions and care are given to Poultry products in India. The Delhi government even imposed a ban on its sale; however, the centre intervened and uplifted as major occupation and livelihood depends upon poultry industry.

States like Himachal Pradesh, Goa, Manipur, Assam and Madhya Pradesh banned the entry of poultry products from other states. Prices of poultry products slumped 50% in some of these states, and India is witnessing a growth rate of consumption dip.

Economically, the hospitality sector, particularly, restaurants who believes such a situation will further mar the industry which was recovering from Covid-19

What causes the ‘Avian Influenza’?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Avian influenza is categorized under ‘Type A’ out of the four types of influenza viruses. Type A affects both humans and different kinds of animals. This category is even capable of causing an influenza pandemic. Therefore, it is a matter of concern involving the public health.

1) Contact with an infected bird’s faeces or secretions from its nose, mouth or eyes;
2) Open markets, especially those in crowded areas and under unsanitary conditions, where infected birds and eggs are sold;
3) Undercooked poultry meat or eggs of the infected birds.

Situation in India (as of January 2021)

The cases of the bird flu have swooped in from the following Indian states:-
1. Kerala;
2. Rajasthan;
3. Madhya Pradesh;
4. Himachal Pradesh;
5. Haryana;
6. Gujarat;
7. Uttar Pradesh.

So far, there has not been any proof of any human-to-human transmission of the bird flu. Though the fatality level is low compared to other types of diseases, it is highly advisable to be extremely careful to avoid health difficulties.

Timeline of the Influenza in India over the years

Time Period & Particulars

2006 – The first major outbreak in Maharashtra and Gujarat.
2008 & 2014 – Subsequent outbreaks in West Bengal and Kerala respectively.
2006 to 2015 – 25 bird flu cases arose across 15 states. However, no human infection occurred so far.
2019 – The nation declared itself to be free from the bird flu

What are the symptoms?

Following are the common symptoms of the bird flu:-
a. At the initial stage:
Sore throat

b. At the later stage:
1. Fatigue;
2. Nasal congestion;
3. Dry cough;
4. Headache;
5. Sweating;
6. Body chills;
7. Muscle pain;
8. Fever;
9. Shortness of breath.

Who all are prone to this disease?

1. Children below 2 years of age;
2. Adults over 65 years of age;
3. People with co-morbidities (having more than one disease at the same time);
4. Pregnant women or those women who have recently given birth.

Any possible complications?

Yes! People who get affected by the bird flu could possibly end up developing dangerous complications such as:-

1. Heart problems;
2. Kidney dysfunction;
3. Respiratory failure;
4. Conjunctivitis (having a pink eye);
5. Pneumonia.

Prevention is better than cure!

Since 1997, less than 500 bird flu deaths have been reported to WHO. Still, that does not mean that one need not take any preventative measures to stay safe from the flu. Following are the simple prevention measures one can resort to:-

1. According to WHO, cooking of poultry (like chickens, ducks and geese) at or above 70 degree Celsius, in such a manner that no meat remains raw and red, is a one such safety measure to kill the virus in the prevalent areas;
2. Avoid getting in touch with domesticated birds, especially when you are travelling;
3. Take care of personal hygiene;
4. Be aware of any authorized and reliable flu shot;
5. Keep the poultry-touched utensils clean, to avoid cross-contamination;
6. Steer clear of raw eggs.
7. Use the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kit when handling livestock.

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