Business Standard
What is a Bird Flu or Avian Influenza?

Bird Flu

About Bird Flu

What is a Bird Flu or Avian Influenza?

Bird flu, also known as avian influenza, is an infectious viral disease of birds, especially wild waterfowls such as ducks and geese. It is a viral infection that primarily infects birds, including chicken, other poultry, and wild aquatic birds.

This highly-contagious disease spreads from infected birds to other winged creatures through contact with nasal, and respiratory secretions and also due to contamination of feed and water. Bird flu virus is sensitive to heat, and dies at cooking temperatures.

The first incident of bird flu infection occurred in Hong Kong in 1997.

Bird flu: Why is it in news

Thousands of birds have died due to different variants of bird flu in Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana, prompting the Centre to issue an alert to the states to monitor their health in forest areas and near water bodies.

As of January 6, 2021, avian influenza has been reported from 12 epicentres of four states - Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Kerala - after confirmation of positive samples from ICAR-NIHSAD. “So far, no human case of Avian Influenza has been reported. Ministry of Health & Family Welfare continues to keep a strict watch over the evolving scenario,” the Centre has said.

How does bird flu spread?

All bird species are susceptible to the infection, but domestic poultry flocks are more vulnerable to bird flu infections that can easily reach epidemic proportions. Bird flu virus can affect several species of domestic poultry, such as chickens, guinea fowl, turkeys, quails, ducks, as well as wild migratory birds, pet birds, and waterfowls.

Pig is the only animal capable of two-way transmission of avian influenza virus between birds and humans. However, domestic species of pigs and ducks carrying and multiplying this virus do not generally die because of the virus. Chickens having little resistance against it generally succumb to heavy viral load.

Some aquatic birds act as hosts of influenza viruses by carrying the virus in their intestines and shedding it. Infected birds shed virus in saliva, nasal secretions and faeces. Avian influenza viruses spread among susceptible birds when they have contact with contaminated nasal, respiratory and faecal material from infected birds.

However, faecal-to-oral transmission is the most common mode of spread. The virus of bird flu can spread among birds through direct contact with secretions from infected birds, contaminated feed, water, equipment, and human shoes and clothing.

Can bird flu transfer to humans?

There are no known cases of bird flu in human beings, and the risk to general public is quite low. The disease of bird flu infects humans through the contact of sick poultry birds, and can also be transmitted from a sick person to a healthy person.

Also, the risk of transmission of bird flu is mainly for the animal handlers, and people in the close vicinity. Basically, the bird flu virus does not easily spread from person to person, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Symptoms of bird flu

In humans, the common symptoms of bird flu or avian influenza ranges from typical influenza like, fever, cough, muscle aches, sore throat to eye infections, pneumonia, viral pneumonia, acute respiratory distress, and other severe and serious complications.

However, the intensity of symptoms in birds vary greatly depending on the strain of the virus, and the type of bird. Bird flu infection with avian influenza A viruses (for example, H5 and H7 strains) can cause widespread disease and deaths among some species of wild and especially domesticated birds such as chickens and turkeys.

Control measures

The correct solution lies in preventive and curative vaccination to control the spread of the virus. The process of culling is usually done to control the bird flu infection when detected in animals. Apart from culling, safe disposal of all culled animals and animal products is also important.

The authorities concerned also need to strictly enforce decontamination of infected premises, and assure the quarantine of contaminated personnel, and vehicles. It is advised to eat properly-cooked eggs or chicken. As part of precautionary measures, animals culled to control the spread of the virus should not be allowed to enter the food and feed chain.

People who work at the poultry industry are strictly advised to practice hand hygiene, and wear PPEs (personal protective equipment). Moreover, antiviral drugs are considered for consumption to ease bird flu symptoms.

Latest Updates on Bird Flu

US logs second human case of bird flu over contact with sick cow. 10 points

3 min read Last Updated :Apr 04 2024 | 10:20 AM IST
Bird flu takes toll on US industry, 1.35 mn chickens being killed in Ohio

3 min read Last Updated :Nov 25 2023 | 6:56 AM IST
Bird flu reappears in US commercial poultry flocks in Utah, South Dakota

3 min read Last Updated :Oct 11 2023 | 8:56 AM IST
New mutation in bird flu virus shows potential for humans outbreak: Report

3 min read Last Updated :Apr 15 2023 | 7:20 PM IST
Chile detects 1st human case of avian influenza A (H5N1) bird flu

3 min read Last Updated :Mar 30 2023 | 7:55 PM IST
WHO warns tourists to avoid wet markets to avert human bird flu risk

2 min read Last Updated :Mar 01 2023 | 7:34 PM IST
Culling of 4,000 chickens, ducks starts in Jharkhand amid bird flu outbreak

2 min read Last Updated :Feb 26 2023 | 6:29 AM IST
Chickens, ducks to be culled as Jharkhand reports bird flu outbreak

2 min read Last Updated :Feb 25 2023 | 7:52 PM IST
Jharkhand on alert as bird flu cases reported in state-run poultry farm

2 min read Last Updated :Feb 22 2023 | 7:56 AM IST
Bird flu costs pile up as outbreak enters second year; 58 mn birds killed

5 min read Last Updated :Feb 18 2023 | 11:30 PM IST
Japan culls record 9.98 million birds as avian influenza rages

1 min read Last Updated :Jan 10 2023 | 12:15 AM IST
Bird flu in Kerala: Preventive measures to be taken, says Health Minister

2 min read Last Updated :Jan 08 2023 | 7:42 PM IST
Bird flu cases reach record high in Japan, hit 54 this season, says govt

1 min read Last Updated :Jan 03 2023 | 6:05 PM IST
Over 6,000 birds killed in Kerala's Kottayam amid bird flu outbreak

1 min read Last Updated :Dec 25 2022 | 2:17 PM IST
Lakshadweep bans transport of frozen chicken over Kerala bird flu outbreak

1 min read Last Updated :Dec 24 2022 | 4:34 PM IST
Bird flu prompts slaughter of another 1.8 million chickens in Nebraska

2 min read Last Updated :Nov 27 2022 | 11:41 PM IST
China reports first human case of H3N8 bird flu; 4-year old infected

1 min read Last Updated :Apr 27 2022 | 10:52 AM IST
China reports first case of H3N8 bird flu as 4-yr-old from Henan infected

2 min read Last Updated :Apr 26 2022 | 7:56 PM IST
Volume IconWhat is bird flu and how it spreads?

3 min read Last Updated :Mar 07 2022 | 8:45 AM IST
Volume IconTMS Ep 122: Airfare hike, Richard Turrin, volatile market, bird flu

2 min read Last Updated :Mar 07 2022 | 8:00 AM IST