News: After bird flu (avian influenza) was confirmed in Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh, high alert has been sounded in several states which have been reporting deaths of birds, including crows and migratory species.
- Bird flu or avian influenza: It is the name used to describe a viral infection that is reported mostly in birds but has the potential to affect humans and other animals.
- Common Strain: The most common strain of the virus that causes severe respiratory disease in birds is H5N1; various other strains like H7, H8 too, cause infection.
- Origin: The virus was first reported in geese in China in 1996.Since then, outbreaks have been reported periodically across the world. India reported the presence of the virus in Nandurbar, Maharashtra, in 2006.
- Human Transmission: The H5N1 virus can jump species and infect humans from the infected bird. The first case of H5N1 infection in humans was reported in Hong Kong in 1997 when a poultry farm worker caught the infection from infected birds.
- Human-Human Transmission: The high mortality rate in humans almost 60% is the main cause of concern about the spread of bird flu. However, in its present form, human-to-human infection is not known — human infections have been reported only among people who have handled infected birds or carcasses.
- Current Situation in India: Currently, samples from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Kerala have tested positive for the A (H5N8) strain of the virus, while samples from Himachal Pradesh have shown the presence of A (H5N1).Most infections have been reported either in wild birds, crows or migratory birds.
- Is India’s Population Vulnerable to Bird Flu? Experts have said that the chances of the H5N1 virus infecting humans is comparatively low in India as compared to South East Asian countries mainly because both meat and eggs in India are eaten well-cooked which sees them being exposed to over 100 degrees Celsius. Thus the chances of humans contracting the virus from eating chicken and eggs is extremely rare.