Thu, 13 Jun 2024 Health & Fitness

Understanding Bird Flu and Its Impact

By Dr. Swati Rajagopal
Dr. Swati Rajagopal, Consultant - Infectious Disease _ Travel Medicine, Aster CMI HospitalDr. Swati Rajagopal, Consultant - Infectious Disease _ Travel Medicine, Aster CMI Hospital

Bird flu, or avian influenza, is a viral illness that mainly infects birds. However, there's a chance it can jump to humans and other mammals who come into close contact with infected birds. The strains H5N1, H7N9, and H5N6 have raised the most concern recently due to their potential for human transmission. These infections in humans typically occur through direct contact with sick animals or contaminated environments, such as poultry farms.

India has recently detected avian influenza A(H5N1) in domestic birds. While the virus currently circulates in poultry, there's a chance of occasional human infections.

Avian influenza in humans can range in severity from mild, resembling a common head cold, to life-threatening. Beyond respiratory problems, symptoms of bird flu can include eye inflammation (conjunctivitis), stomach and intestinal issues (gastrointestinal symptoms), and even brain inflammation (encephalitis) and brain dysfunction (encephalopathy). In some special cases, some people exposed to bird flu, particularly the H5N1 strain, show no symptoms at all.

High-risk groups like poultry farmers, veterinarians, and emergency staff should wear protective gear. This includes N95 masks, eye shields, and gloves when handling sick birds, carcasses, droppings, or anything potentially contaminated. Regular hand washing after contact is essential. Animal workers should get appropriate training, Do’s and Don’ts of PPE (Personal protective equipment) kit use and when to use it.

It is advisable to avoid high-risk areas like animal market, farms with poultry. Follow hand hygiene diligently, wash hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizer, especially if you come in touch with birds or poultry. Cook poultry meat well for at least 74 Degree Celsius before consumption.

If you've been in contact with a possible infected bird or environment and experience flu-like symptoms, seek a medical practitioner's advice. Early diagnosis is crucial. Antiviral medications can be very effective, especially if taken promptly.

Dr. Swati Rajagopal, Consultant - Infectious Disease & Travel Medicine, Aster CMI Hospital, Bangalore

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