Published: 12th January 2021
What the FAQ: Can humans contract Bird Flu? Everything about Avian Influenza and its spread in India
There are confirmed cases of bird flu in Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and six other states in India. Here's what you need to know
Even as we look forward to the vaccine drive in the country to stave off the Coronavirus, towards a possible end to this pandemic, there could be another looming upon us. Lakhs of birds have already died in the past ten days in India as a new Avian Influenza outbreak has come to the fore affecting 10 states as of Monday. Prices have fallen, sales have gone down drastically leading people to panic even more.
Let's look at how much reason there is to panic, how the flu spreads, how can we keep ourselves safe and a few other important questions that crop up.
Why is Bird Flu in the news?
Ans: Till January 11, 2021, Bird Flu has been confirmed to have affected 10 states in India, the Ministry of Animal Husbandry and Dairying said in a statement on Monday. Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh had already confirmed the avian influenza outbreak in the states as of January 10. Delhi, Uttarakhand and Maharashtra joined the list of affected states on Monday. The Central government has asked all other states to be vigilant and up their surveillance especially around live bird markets, zoos, water bodies and poultry farms.
What is Bird Flu?
Ans: Avian flu or commonly called Bird Flu is a highly contagious viral disease that occurs among birds and can be passed on to other animals as well as humans. It is a disease caused by Type A influenza viruses that majorly affect poultry. This virus can have several strains, out of which most could cause mild symptoms while some can even prove fatal. The current Bird Flu outbreak has evidence of H5N1 and H8N1 strains of virus causing the death of birds across states in India. The first time ever was detected in 1966 in geese in China.
Is it okay to eat chicken and eggs?
Ans: The virus typically dies when it is exposed to temperatures more than 70 degrees Celcius, thus if you cook your egg and meat well enough and hygienically, it should be suitable for consumption. Avian influenza is not a foodborne disease as determined by the World Health Organisation. The risk of exposure to bird flu is the highest when someone comes in contact with infected avian faecal matter, for instance, a poultry worker might during slaughter, de-feathering, and butchering.
How does it spread?
Ans: Influenza A virus can be carried by migratory aquatic birds from one place to the other. They occasionally shed it in their droppings wherever they migrate from and to. This is how it typically spread to other birds, and sometimes even to mammals such as cats, dogs, horses and pigs.
When did it begin affecting humans?
Ans: The first-ever case of human contraction was detected in Hong Kong in 1997, which was also said to be the deadly H5N1 strain of the influenza virus. In subsequent years, other strains such as H5N2, H9N2 also spread from animals to human beings. According to WHO, between 2003 and 2014, there were 701 cases of H5N1 and 407 deaths among humans.
What are the most common symptoms of Bird Flu?
Ans: The virus may cause severe respiratory illnesses such as acute pneumonia or acute respiratory syndrome among human beings. The early symptoms of bird flu include fever, cough, sore throat, and at times diarrhoea and abdominal pain.
How can humans stay safe?
Ans: Antiviral drugs are used for treatment and have been observed to be successful. People working with livestock are asked to follow hand hygiene and also can wear PPEs. We should avoid live animal markets and poultry farms and also frequently wash hands and maintain hygiene. According to WHO, human infections are linked to home slaughter or improper handling of poultry, birds before cooking.
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