AIR spotlight summary on “Bird Flu-Prevention, Symptoms and Cure”.
- National zoological park in New Delhi has been shut down amid fears of Bird flu. H5N1 virus is very dangerous virus and can spread very quickly from one species to other winged creatures. The return of the scare considering that in September 2016 India had declared itself free from the Bird flu virus and had even notified its H5N1 free status to the world organisation of Animal health which is the apex body across the world looking after the containment of H5N1 virus.
- Bird flu or Avian Influenza was first reported in 1900. There have been many reports of the outbreak in USA and South East Asia region. In India it was reported in 2006 in Maharashtra. Since then it has been reported many times in Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Manipur, Sikkim, Kerala, etc.
- Avian flu is the type of influenza caused by Type A strain of virus carried and infected by birds. That is why it is also known as the bird flu.
- Avian flu can be infected by several types of birds, including farmed poultry such as chicken, ducks, turkey etc.
- H5N1 consists of two types of proteins. H is a Hemagglutinin and N is H1N1 is the human influenza and avian influenza is H5N1 and H7N9.
HOW DOES BIRD FLU SPREAD?
- Bird flu is an infectious disease. It is mostly transmitted from livestock to birds (both wild and pet), and sometimes vice-versa.
- This virus remains in the wild and there it is not infected. At some point the virus breaches the immunity and spreads to the domestic birds. Once it spreads to the domestic poultry it becomes a serious infection which rapidly kills the birds.
- The avian influenza virus strain can spread rapidly from one infected bird to other animals and birds via its bodily secretions, feces, same feed or water bowl. From such infected birds, the virus can spread to humans who come in contact with them.
- Those working in the poultry farm can be infected and should be protected. This is not a respiratory virus like the human influenza virus. In case of human, the bird flu also spreads at a high rate from the consumption of the meat of an infected bird.
- Most of the viruses are normally reactive to temperatures. India being the tropical country is more vulnerable and we have been battling the spread of diseases like Dengue and chikungunya.
HOW DANGEROUS IS BIRD FLU?
- In the last 10 years there have been no human infected cases reported in India. In other parts of the world like China, Hong Kong etc 852 cases of human infection have been reported till date. This has got a very high mortality rate. In some parts of the world, more than half the people infected with it die.
- There are, in total, 16 types of bird flu. The H5N1 strain is considered the deadliest of all, although humans do not become easily infected with this virus.
HOW TO PREVENT BIRD FLU?
- We can prevent the spread by culling of the birds or by giving vaccination to the birds. Bird flu triggers speculation about the safety of the poultry products. In Chandigarh a similar scenario was reported two years ago where people had stopped consuming poultry products and the poultry industry was negatively affected.
- Cooked poultry are safe to eat, as long as they are prepared properly. This is a heat sensitive virus. Those dealing with raw meat can be infected.
- Hygiene has to be maintained in the poultry farm. There must be standard hygienic conditions which must be followed.
- All birds can’t be killed, nor can bird migration be stopped. Therefore, humans have to be careful to prevent the flu.
- There are vaccines available to prevent the spread of infection in the domestic poultry. Most often Government culls the animal to prevent the spread of the disease because it is not easy to vaccine the entire poultry.
- Whenever there is reporting of Bird flu in a particular place it is better to close the area for time being as a precaution.
- In India not much research has been done in the component of Avian Influenza. For Avian Influenza Vaccine is available outside India. USA has developed vaccine for Human infection. India has the vaccination for the swine flu. We should be cautious about the suspicious dying of the birds and investigate whether it is the virus infection.