Around five states in India have reported bird deaths due to Avian influenza, commonly known as the bird flu — Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat, and more recently Uttar Pradesh.
Several reports have indicated that poultry birds in the hundreds of thousands have died under mysterious circumstances in the state of Haryana. In Himachal, around 1800 migratory birds were found dead in the state's Pong Dam Lake. The local authorities in Kerala ordered the culling of ducks to prevent an outbreak of the influenza pandemic. As a result, the central government has asked states to examine the droppings of seasonal and poultry birds to prevent the spread.
What is avian influenza or bird flu?
Bird flu is an infectious viral disease caused by influenza type A viruses. It is generally found in poultry birds such as chickens and turkeys. Migratory Birds act as the transmitters of the virus as they carry it with them through long distances across continents, infecting large avian populations in the process. Like other viruses, avian influenza has multiple strains.
At least 131 different subtypes of Influenza A virus have been detected in nature. Two of the above can infect birds as per CDC, USA.
While some of them produce mild symptoms, others are severely lethal and can wipe out a large part of bird populations, like the one witnessed in January of 2021.
How does the bird flu spread?
The H5N1 avian flu also referred to as bird flu, occurs mainly in birds, especially aquatic birds such as ducks and geese. These birds act as an organic playground and serve as the ideal environment for the Influenza A viruses to thrive. Bird flu in humans was first detected in 1997 during a poultry outbreak in Hong Kong. It has since been identified in poultry and wild birds in more than fifty countries worldwide.
India is one of the South Asian countries listed as prone to the endemic of the H5N1 virus in poultry. It has been widely reported that birds carry the flu without contracting the sickness and cast it in their droppings. Traveling over long distances, the birds excrete feces even while flying. They drop aerosols of the influenza virus that infects other birds like crows. Furthermore, a few birds feed on the dropping and catch the illness, turning them into new carriers that bring the virus with them locally.
What type of bird flu has been found in India?
The National Institute of High-Security Animal Disease has confirmed two strains of the influenza viruses thus far. The first H5N8 is a subtype of avian influenza commonly found in poultry and wild animals. The aforementioned strain likely resulted in the deaths of crows in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. While the strain does not pose a serious threat to humans, it remains lethal to poultry and wild birds at large. The NIHSAD identified the second strain as the H5N1 avian flu that resulted in the deaths of ducks in Kerala and the previously mentioned migratory birds in Himachal Pradesh. This strain is known to be extremely contagious and generates deadly respiratory disease in birds.
Can humans get affected by the H5N1 bird flu?
As per the Union health ministry, India has not reported any case of bird flu in humans thus far. Since 2006, there have been 25 incidents of H5N1, but have largely been restricted to poultry.
While the chances of humans contracting the bird flu remain low, it is still a possible outcome for people coming in close contact with infected birds. If you are experiencing symptoms related to respiratory functions always seek medical assistance or contact a pathology lab like Pathkind Pathology Labs. Pathkind Pathology Labs offer various diagnostic tests that help you to evaluate your condition. Our team of experts will carefully analyze your condition by reliable tests and present you with accurate results.