Bird flu- more ‘Scare’ than ‘Serious’

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Bird flu- more ‘Scare’ than ‘Serious’

With the spreading news of bird flu across the globe, Indian Ministry of Health & Agriculture is already into action. A ban has been put on import of all poultry and poultry processed products. The government has issued an alert against bird flu to prevent the outbreak, which has already killed 10 people and millions of chickens in other Asian countries. The flu has so far been detected in nine countries in the region, including Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Laos and Pakistan. Thailand and Vietnam have reported human cases. While the bird-flu infection in Pakistan has reportedly been caused by a weaker strain- H9N1 virus, two highly pathogenic avian virus strains – H7N1 and H5N1 – have been identified as the culprits in other countries.

Although the situation in India is not alarming as the country’s import of poultry products is negligible. However, scientists believe that the migratory birds coming to India could be potential carriers. Hence, health officials are taking necessary precautions.

Now what exactly is this bird flu, how is it spread, what are the symptoms…. here are the details. Bird flu is a type of influenza that is believed to strike all birds. However, domestic poultry are more at risk. Although some human cases have been reported, no human-to-human transmission has been seen till date.

However, scientists are worried that if a person already carrying a human variety of influenza gets infected with bird flu, the two flu viruses could link with one another and may mutate resulting in a deadly new strain of virus that can be transmitted from one person to another triggering a global flu pandemic (infectious disease affecting wide geographical areas).

How does it spread?

  • The infection spreads from the infected bird through its saliva, excreta and nasal secretions.
  • Human beings who come in direct contact (especially the poultry farm workers) with the infected birds are more at risk of catching the disease.
  • Eating eggs and chicken without boiling can be potentially infectious.

What are the symptoms?

In Birds: Fever, loss of appetite, weakness, disheveled feathers, diarrhea, increased thirst, swelling. If the virus strain is extremely toxic it can result in a death arte of 50-100%.

In Humans: Cough, sore throat, fever, pain in muscles, eye infection, pneumonia, and acute respiratory distress.

Prevention

According to scientists there has been no evidence of the infection being passed by eating properly cleaned and cooked poultry products. However, WHO has given the following recommendations:

  • Cook the chicken products thoroughly at a temperature of at least 70°C for 15-20 minutes. The bird flu virus becomes inactive at this temperature and the chicken can be consumed safely.
  • Always wash hands after handling poultry.
  • Wash the preparing surface (such as cutting board, knife), so that the poultry remains do not contaminate other objects.

Precautions taken by Health Ministry

  • A ban has been put on import of all poultry and poultry processed products.
  • A few veterinary doctors have been put on the job to check all chicken entering the market.
  • Poultry farms have started administering vaccination to their poultry as a precautionary measure.
  • Poultry farm owners have been asked to report any mass death of fowls (domesticated birds like chicken, hen etc.) their farms.

Treatment for humans

According to WHO the current viral strain is resistant to cheaper anti-viral drugs, amantadine and rimantadine. Hence, scientists are exploring more expensive treatment. WHO also recommends isolation of the sick people

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