Bird Flu, Avian Influenza

The year 2020 was the year of ups and downs as the whole world has witnessed a health crisis due to the Coronavirus pandemic that is still not over. There was a hope that 2021 will bring new changes and beginnings, but the world encountered a new Bird Flu better known, Avian Influenza threat. The Avian Influenza, another name of infectious disease Bird flu, is categorised as one of the deadliest diseases caused by the virus generally termed influenza type ‘A’ or ‘B’. The kind of virus that lives in birds and can be transmitted to humans and is termed influenza. This virus is the caricature of infection not only in birds but also in humans and other animals.

H5N1: The Most Common form of Bird Flu

H5N1, the most common form of Bird flu can be transmitted to humans, birds and animals with contact from infected hosts. It is not only life-threatening to birds but also humans and other animals. Scientists discovered this virus in the year 1997  in humans. So far, scientists have found many bird-flu types, but H5N1 was the first Avian Influenza virus founded by humans through contact with infected bird faeces or secretions which could infect humans from eyes and mouth.

Bird Flu Transmissions in Birds

The type A virus is the main cause of infection and can occur naturally among wild aquatic birds worldwide and from poultry and other animals. This virus is highly contagious and is a common culprit of deaths among domestic birds like ducks, turkeys and chickens. The infected bird species can shed this influenza, causing the threat of transmission.

Risk of Bird Flu in Domesticated Birds

Chickens, turkeys and ducks come under the category of domesticated birds. These birds have a higher risk of getting influenza A virus due to the infection caused within the infected poultry or contaminated surfaces. There is more Risk of spreading HPA1 and LPAI viruses that can transmit through flocks of poultry. HPA1 virus can cause severe infections in birds leading to high mortality rates, whereas LPA1 can spread rapidly but causes mild illness and is not necessary to be detected.

Bird Flu Transmission in People

Avian Influenza ‘A’ virus generally doesn’t infect people, and the reason rare cases of human infections are found. Human infections occur when sufficient virus enters the body through a person’s eyes and mouth. The more is contact with the contaminated surface or infected birds more is the chance of getting infections. The illness range depends on the kind of virus one came in contact with whereas mild to severe, depending on the patient’s condition.

Symptoms of Infection:

With the outburst of Bird flu infection, several medical diagnoses are required. The symptoms vary from cold cough and simple flu to fever, sore throat, muscle aches, shortness of breath, and headache. In other words, symptoms are almost the same as common flu and may vary from person to person; in rare cases, vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea, eye infection has also been observed. It is highly recommended to consult a doctor if the person has made any recent visit to farms or open-air markets where lack of proper hygiene and sanitation exist.

In severe cases, pneumonia, kidney dysfunction, and heart problems are also involved risk factors.

Who is at higher risk?

People involved in poultry farming, chicken breeds, chicken sale, or visits the contaminated places are at a higher risk of spreading the flu. Also, the healthcare worker who may come in contact with affected patients can get the flu. Recent studies show that consuming undercooked poultry food, including eggs, are at higher risk of getting the infection. So it is always recommended to consume non-veg food adequately washed and cooked.

How to diagnose the infection?

Bird flu highly pathogenic as it is more severe and contagious. As in the case of COVD-19, proper hygiene and safety required similarly, by keeping proper hygiene and following WHO safety guidelines infection can also be avoided, the exposure should be in a sanitary and clean environment. The main focus should be on public health, and that should be maintained adequately. It is always advisable for those who are more respondents to poultry outbreaks should go for seasonal influenza vaccination every year.

With the approval of a test specially designed to diagnose Avian Influenza by the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC), the test is termed as A/H5(Asian lineage) virus real-time RT-PCR primer and probe set. It takes less than 4 hours but still the test isn’t available at a wide range.

Depending upon the severity of the case and infection, the other diagnosis of bird-flu include:

  • Chest X-ray
  • White blood cell differential
  • Nasopharyngeal culture
  • Auscultation to check breathing abnormalities

Laboratory testing is needed at the earliest where swab from the patient’s nose or throat is taken within the first few days of infection. Afterwards, the specimen is sent to the laboratories, and a molecular test is done. On the other hand, if the condition is critical and the infection is more severe, then the specimen is collected from the lower respiratory tract. These tests may take several weeks to verify the results, whereas these tests can only be performed at highly specialised laboratories. Other testings include kidneys, heart, and liver functioning tests.

Treatments to be followed:

The doctor prescribes various antiviral medications such as oseltamivir, zanamivir, or peramivir according to the condition’s severity. These antivirals must be taken within 48 hours after the symptoms start appearing. Proper isolation methods should be taken into consideration to avoid the spreading of infection to other people. In other words, the treatment involves intensive care and even hospitalisation sometimes, regarding vaccines that are still not available widely for the public.

Precautions to be taken:

Since the bird flu outburst has created havoc on the environment, few precautionary measures can help recover from the situation.

According to WHO, meat and poultry eatables should be cooked appropriately at an internal temperature of 73.9 degrees celsius.[1]

  • Eggs should be properly cooked and boiled.
  • Proper isolation methods should be taken if anybody is feeling sick or has developed any symptoms.
  • Avoid holding dead birds with bare hands, proper sanitising and washing of hands should be done.
  • Poultry farmers are more prone to risk, so proper hygiene should be maintained.
  • Avoid open-air markets with huge crowds and unsafe poultry eatables (eggs, chicken, meat, etc.)

Bird Flu outbreak in the year 2021:

The year 2020 has brought many painful memories since the Coranavirus already spread its jaws everywhere globally; many have lost their precious lives due to it. People have started living with its presence with caution and fear at a time. Simultaneously on the other side, the year 2021 comes up with another terror of Bird Flu, affecting several birds across the country and becoming a global pandemic. Avian influenza is highly contagious and has already taken the lives of a variety of birds. In India, it has spread to eight states already. Taiwan, Japan, and other European countries have witnessed more than 48 lakhs of birds’ deaths in December 2020. Since the virus is prone to mutation, if it undergoes in the future, there is more possibility of spreading it from human to human, leading to a global pandemic.

This pandemic has led to severe economic loss as the poultry farmers have witnessed heavy losses due to culling. Sales have declined as India is the great exporter of processed poultry products such as egg yolk powder, chicken products, etc. As culling is equally crucial if not followed can lead to more exposure of the virus from one to the folks. It is a significant threat to humans, as well.

Conclusion:

Avian influenza can be a big threat to birds or animals and human beings as well. Precautionary measures if taken in the right form, can save the lives of many. Still, one has the best option and the right chance to go Vegan and choose the right food that is safe and doesn’t require killing the innocents. Protection and prevention can be followed to prevent more losses. Abide and accept safety and hygiene to stay fit and fine!