Contributed by – Preksha Buttan
While we are still dealing with the onslaught of covid-19, bird flu has become the cause of panic among the masses of India. In the past 10 days, lakhs of birds have died in the country. Although bird flu or avian influenza occur naturally in wild aquatic birds, it has the potential to infect humans and other animals. Several cases of human infection have already emerged in various states including Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Maharashtra.
In light of the outbreak, we answer the most common questions about bird flu here. So, keep reading!
What is bird flu?
Bird flu or avian influenza is a highly contagious disease caused by infection with avian influenza Type A viruses. These viruses occur naturally in wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other birds and animals. Although this flu mainly affects birds, humans who are in direct contact with sick birds may also get infected. But, there’s no need to panic as no case of human to human spread has come up yet.
What are the symptoms of bird flu?
The following typical flu-like symptoms may be a sign of bird flu:
- Abdominal pain
- Respiratory difficulties
- High fever
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
What causes bird flu?
Bird flu is transmitted to humans via contact with an infected bird’s faeces or secretions from its nose, mouth or eyes. The virus stays active for as long as 10 days, hence touching the infected surfaces might become the cause of the spread of the infection to humans.
Open-air markets where eggs and birds are sold in crowded and unsanitary conditions are hotbeds of infection and often lead to the spread of disease into the wider community.
Undercooked poultry meat and eggs from infected birds are another reason for the transmission. Poultry meat is safe to eat only when it has been cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Eggs too should be cooked until the yolks and whites are firm.
Who are at risk?
You may be at an increased risk of bird flu if you are:
- a poultry farmer
- travelling to affected areas
- exposed to infected birds
- someone who eats undercooked eggs or poultry
- a healthcare worker caring for infected patients
- a household member of an infected person
What are the safety precautions?
The government has given the following recommendations for bird flu prevention:
- Make sure that all parts of the poultry are fully cooked and no ‘pink’ parts are left.
- Eggs too should be cooked until there’s no runny yolk
- Risk of cross-contamination shouldn’t be ignored. Hence, never mix poultry products with items that are to be eaten raw.
- If you are handling raw poultry or are involved in food preparation, then wash your hands thoroughly and clean and disinfect surfaces that come in contact with the poultry.
- In areas experiencing outbreaks, raw eggs should not be used.
- When travelling to areas of the outbreak, avoid visiting open-air markets and any contact with birds.
At this time when bird flu is actively spreading, instead of panicking, carefully follow the safety guidelines whether or not you are in the regions of the outbreak. And if you happen to notice any symptoms mentioned above, consult with a doctor immediately. Moreover, if you decide to physically visit the doctor’s clinic, inform them before-hand so that they can take precautions to protect the staff and other patients.
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