After an outbreak of dreaded and near fatal Bird Flu in a private poultry farm in Bidar district of Karnataka, the State Government has sounded an alert across the State.
Through its alert notice the Government has instructed farm owners to take preventive measures. Farm owners have been forbidden, in case of a viral infection, by scientists to sell or move any of the birds/eggs and material out of farm; Government agencies have instructed them to avow proper bio-security measures.
Since Karnataka has nearly 7,000 poultry farms, having a stock of more than five crore birds, the State’s daily egg-production is approximately 1.2 crore.
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About Bird Flu
Birds Flu, (H5N1), or avian influenza (AI), is a Viral infection that spreads from bird to bird. Scientifically, H5N1, a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus, is fatal to most birds and it becomes fatal to those human beings too who become infected by this virus from birds.
The first case in which a human being was infected by H5N1 virus came into light in 1997 and since then this virus has killed about 60% of the people who were infected by it.
However, the bird flu does not expand easily from person to person as is the case with human flu. In few exceptional cases, such as a mother caught the virus while caring for her sick infant, the virus gets transmitted from human-to-human.
The natural carriers of bird flu viruses are migrating water fowl, especially wild ducks. Sometimes AI virus can spread the infection from wild fowl to domestic poultry.
It is a matter of concern that the disease has extended to wild birds, pigs and even to donkeys; it has become difficult to eradicate the bird flu. The disease had already got itself rooted, till 2011, in six nations: China, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Egypt and Vietnam.
How Do Humans catch Bird Flu
It is commonly known that people catch bird flu by coming into close contact with birds or bird droppings. However the phrase “close contact” means different things to people belonging to different cultures.
Some people catch H5N1 from cleaning or plucking infected birds. Some people get infected after taking a bath or swimming in water that is contaminated with the droppings of infected birds. And some cases have come to light of people getting caught by bird flu while handling cock-fights. Some reports from China reveal that the infection causing birds flu spread there via inhalation of aerosolized materials in live bird markets.
Scientists working on bird flu claim that people who eat fully cooked chicken or eggs do not catch the virus H5N1 by merely eating.
Effects and Symptoms of bird flu on Humans
Although it has been established that most Avian Influenza viruses do not infect human being directly, some virus such as A(H5N1) and A(H7N9) have effected serious infections in people.
The most of the cases of A(H5N1) infection, involving human beings, are related with direct or indirect contact with infected live or dead poultry. No evidence has been found till date that the disease, the bird flu, can spread people through properly cooked food.
The most obvious symptoms of bird flu are: a temperature higher than 38 degree C and other symptoms of influenza such as cough or sore throat; diarrhea; vomiting; chest pain; abdominal pain; and bleeding from gums and nose. It is important to note that these are the early symptoms of the H5N1 virus infection.
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Controlling and reducing Bird Flu
The first step towards reducing the risks of spreading the bird flu to humans is/should be controlling the disease in animals.
The Government, as a first step, has ordered the evacuation of the entire infected poultry population, and its eggs, feed, litter and other infected material within a radius of one km.
Affected areas would/must be disinfected and cleaned up and restriction on the movement of poultry should be imposed.
Regular surveillance, especially in areas bordering infected countries and in areas where migratory birds regularly visit.
Treatment of Bird Flu
It has been found that some antiviral drugs, particularly oseltamivir, can shorten the duration of virus replication and improve chances of survival.
However, in cases of severe infection with the viruses, doctors may consider to increase the daily dose or the duration of treatment or both.