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Bird flu deaths put medical fraternity at risk, but human transmission rare

The death of an 11-year-old boy due to bird flu has raised alarm bells for the medical fraternity as well as the Rs 90,000-crore poultry industry, which was seeing some pick-up in demand after months of low sales last year.

An estimated 60 million people in India are directly dependent on the poultry sector, and insiders are concerned that the death toll could lead to a drop in demand.

“We have not received any information about sudden deaths of birds from any poultry farm – or even backyard poultry – across the country. If the disease strikes, there are prescribed protocols for killing and compensation to farmers,” said Ricky Thapar, treasurer of the Poultry Federation of India.

He said the alarm could not have come at a worse time as prices of eggs and chicken are around 20-30 per cent higher than last year, while demand was expected to strengthen as both the items are consumed as immunity boosters in the times of Covid. as is being done.

WHO says that poultry and poultry products can be prepared and consumed as usual, with no fear of infection with avian flu virus, provided one follows good hygiene and cooking methods. The virus is destroyed for 30 minutes at a temperature of 70 ° C. It states that hands and other exposed parts should be sanitized after handling poultry and eggs.

India last saw the widespread impact of bird flu in January this year, when some states such as Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Chhattisgarh killed poultry birds after the disease was reported.

The H5N1 virus, also commonly known as bird flu, is known to spread from chickens, but other birds such as ducks and crows are also carriers of the virus.

The National Center for Disease Control (NCDC) has alerted all its centers across the country under the Integrated Disease Surveillance Program (IDSP) to trace suspected cases.

Haryana’s IDSP State Surveillance Unit has launched an epidemiological investigation into the first documented human case of bird flu. The health ministry said that close contacts of the deceased were under observation for any symptoms. The Animal Husbandry Department has not found any suspected case of bird flu in the area and has increased surveillance in an area of ​​10 km as a precautionary measure. “The epidemiological investigation by the NCDC, comprising the monitoring unit of the Animal Husbandry Department and the State Government, is underway and appropriate public health measures have been taken,” the health ministry said.

An AIIMS source had said that the boy was admitted to the hospital on July 2 with pneumonia and leukemia. He died on 12 July.

“Their samples tested negative for Covid-19. It turned out to be positive for influenza but was not typeable. It was sent to the National Institute of Virology, Pune, where he was confirmed to be positive for H5N1 avian influenza,” news agency PTI quoted an unnamed source as saying.

Vikas Maurya, Director and Head of Department-Pulmonology, Fortis Hospital, said human-to-human transmission of bird flu is rare and not rapid. “But, the disease can be transmitted by coming in contact with infected birds (like in the poultry industry). It is a respiratory disease like influenza and if it is severe it can even cause death,” Maurya said.

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