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Bhubaneswar: The outbreak of Bird Flu in as many as seven states in India in the time of Covid-19 pandemic poses a big threat, especially when many new corona positive cases were being detected every day in those states.

So far, Odisha is yet confirm a single bird flu case in the State, though reports of bird deaths have come in from Khurda.

Another twist here is the timing of the emergence of the Avian virus. Since its the winter season - the time when human influenza virus remains very active, public health experts warn that this could become a double whammy. They think the outbreak this time cannot be a brief show.

Why Scientists Think So?

The scientists at the US-based Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have recently warned that the current highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) Asian (H5N1) virus outbreak among poultry (epizootic) in some countries is not expected to diminish significantly in the short term.

And the big warning they dropped is: Influenza A viruses circulating among poultry have the potential to recombine with human influenza A viruses and become more transmissible among humans.

It then cautioned, "If HPAI Asian H5N1 viruses gain the ability for efficient and sustained transmission among humans, an influenza pandemic could result, with potentially high rates of illness and death worldwide. Therefore, the HPAI H5N1 epizootic continues to pose an important public health threat."

Indian Bird Flu Scenario

Bird Flu virus H5N1 made debut in India in the year 2006. The country has not detected the HPAI Asian H5N1 so far. The Bird Flu virus detected in the country is of low pathogenic nature H5N1 strain.

Pathogenicity: The ability of the organism (here virus) to produce disease in a host (here poultry Birds and also Human beings). Higher pathogenicity means - the virus can induce the disease in the host in a big way and the vice versa described as lower pathogenicity.

 The Result: Despite 28 episodes in the country, not a single human infection of Bird Flu virus case detected. But World has reported few H5N1 and H7N9 infections in humans.

State-Wise Scenario

First outbreak happened in February 2006 in Gujarat and later in Maharasthra. The outbreak spread largely happened in Maharashtra, as the episode lasted till April. Maharashtra had then 28 hotspots compared to Gujarat's only one.

From West, the scene shifted to east when during January - May 2008, West Bengal reported bird Flu outbreak. And the hotspots zoomed to a high of 68, reveals the data available with Union Ministry of Animal Husbandry and Dairying.  Other hotspot states/UTs are: UP, Bihar, Manipur, Chandigarh, Tripura, Assam, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Meghalaya etc.

Odisha Scenario

Odisha saw first Bird Flu outbreak in 2012 January. The State recorded two episodes - one each in January and February.

Big Worry: On February 21, 2014, the government of India informed the World Organization for Animal Health that two house crows tested positive for H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in the state of Odisha. The notification, however, then said the source of the infection is currently unknown.

This episode shows HPAI H5N1 strain had reached Odisha as early as 2014. Therefore, Odisha government need to remain more vigilant.

2017: Odisha  witnessed two episodes of  H5N1 outbreak - Keranga in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela - where virus was detected in crows.

What Is Bird Flu?

Bird flu is caused by a type of influenza virus that rarely infects humans. Over a dozen of bird flu strains identified. But most recent outbreaks were by the two strains — H5N1 and H7N9. When bird flu does strike humans, it can be deadly, said WHO.

As the name suggests, the Flu causing virus occurs naturally in wild waterfowl and can spread into domestic poultry, such as chickens and ducks. The disease is transmitted via contact with an infected bird's faeces, or secretions from its nose, mouth or eyes.

Human Transmission Possible?

YES!  The transmission risk exists  from open-air markets, where eggs and birds are sold in crowded and unsanitary conditions. They can turn hotbeds of infection and can spread the disease into the wider community, warned WHO.

As per the top world health body, the mortality rate is high at 60 per cent - means 60 die in every 100 infections.

Can Eggs, Chicken Spread The Virus?

Yes! Undercooked poultry meat or eggs from infected birds can transmit bird flu. The chicken is safe to eat only when it's been cooked to an internal temperature of 165 F (74 C). And eggs should be cooked until the yolks and whites get firm.

If such norms will not be adhered to than you are at great risk.

The Risk factors

The greatest risk factor for bird flu seems to be contact with sick birds or with surfaces contaminated by their feathers, saliva or droppings. The pattern of human transmission remains mysterious. Though rare, bird flu has been seen transmitted from one human to another. But unless the virus begins to spread more easily among people, infected birds are the greatest source of transmission.

Symptoms: As per WHO

Signs and symptoms of bird flu may begin within two to seven days of infection, depending on the type. In most cases, they resemble those of conventional influenza, including:

Cough

Fever

Sore throat

Muscle aches

Headache

Shortness of breath

Some people also experience nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. And in a few cases, a mild eye infection (conjunctivitis) is the only indication of the disease.

The Complications

People with bird flu may develop such life-threatening complications, including:

Pneumonia

Pink eye (conjunctivitis)

Respiratory failure

Kidney dysfunction

Heart problems

When to see a doctor

See your doctor immediately if you develop a fever, cough and body aches and have recently travelled to a State/country where bird flu episodic attacks have been detected. Tell your doctor whether you have visited any farms or open-air markets.

Prevention

Avoid crowded  open air poultry farms or sale outlets. Don't touch raw eggs or chicken. Wash your hand with soap to sanitise.

Note: Human Influenza shots have no impact on H5N1 virus. However, four specific human vaccines are available:

1) Sanofi Pasteur's vaccine by the United States

2) GlaxoSmithKline's vaccine Prepandrix approved by European Union

3)CSL Limited's vaccine Panvax approved by Australia.

4) Audenz, an adjuvanted influenza A (H5N1) monovalent vaccine by US. (Adjuvanted Vaccine means a vaccine which carry some additional substances to trigger the immune system of the human body. This therapy is used against influenza virus.)

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