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Avian influenza (bird flu)

Topics Covered: Issues related to health.

Avian influenza (bird flu)

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Symptoms, spread and treatment.

 Context: Suspected cases of avian influenza (bird flu) are being reported from various parts of Kerala.

So, the Kerala government has decided to pay compensation to the owners of the hens which were culled as part of the government’s precautionary measures following the outbreak of bird flu.

About Avian influenza (bird flu):

It is a viral infection that can infect not only birds, but also humans and other animals. Most forms of the virus are restricted to birds.

It is a highly contagious viral disease affecting several species of food-producing birds (chickens, turkeys, quails, guinea fowl, etc.), as well as pet birds and wild birds. 

Occasionally mammals, including humans, may contract avian influenza.

Influenza A viruses are classified into subtypes based on two surface proteins, Hemagglutinin (HA) and Neuraminidase (NA). 

What causes bird flu?

  • Although there are several types of bird flu, H5N1 was the first avian influenza virus to infect humans. The first infection occurred in Hong Kong in 1997. The outbreak was linked to handling infected poultry.
  • H5N1 occurs naturally in wild waterfowl, but it can spread easily to domestic poultry. The disease is transmitted to humans through contact with infected bird feces, nasal secretions, or secretions from the mouth or eyes.

How H5N1 affects humans? 

The symptoms of an H5N1 infection in humans include mild upper respiratory tract infection (fever and cough), early sputum production and rapid progression to severe pneumonia. It can lead to sepsis with shock, acute respiratory distress syndrome and even death.

Prevention: Strict biosecurity measures and good hygiene are essential in protecting against disease outbreaks.

Is India really free from Avian Influenza?

With effect from September 3, 2019 the OIE-World Organisation for Animal Health declared India free of H5N1 virus.

India was last declared free of the disease in 2017.

The status was to last only till another outbreak is reported.

Insta Link:

Prelims Link:

  1. When a country is declared free from Avian Influenza, who declares it?
  2. H5N1 vs H5N6 vs H9N2.

Mains Link:

Write a note on Bird Flu. Discuss how it can be prevented.


Sources: the Hindu.