Bird Flu in India - Its Symptoms and Impact

Bird flu H5N1 (avian flu or avian influenza) is a disease which is caused by strains of influenza that primarily affect wild and domesticated birds. The virus is evolved in such a way that it is specially adapted to enter avian cells. 

Different type of influenza viruses preferably live in a limited number of animals, like, swine flu primarily affected swine similarly bird flu infects birds. 

Risk Factors for Bird Flu -

There are high chances of humans getting the bird flu from contact with infected birds for example chickens or from their infected droppings and secretion. It also includes caring for sick birds, killing sick bird and consumption of sick birds.

However, despite the large number of people who are in contact with poultry every day in the world, human cases of bird flu remain rare. 

But it doesn’t mean humans are at no risk- indirect exposure to bird faeces or other materials like bird eggs is also a risk, contact with unwashed eggs from sick birds also poses a potential risk of disease. You may have a greater risk of bird flu if -

1. You are a poultry farmer

2. Visiting affected areas

3. Someone who eats undercooked poultry eggs

4. Exposed to infected birds

Symptoms of Bird Flu in Humans -

The rare cases of humans affected with this virus have been reported that the infected birds shed the virus in their saliva, mucous or faeces. 

Humans can get infected by the virus when enough virus gets into a person’s eye or mouth or is inhaled, it can happen when the virus is in the air and the person breathes it or touches something that has the virus in it and then touches their mouth, eyes or nose. 

Common symptoms of bird flu are -

1. Fever

2. Cough

3. Nausea

4. Sore throat

5. Muscle aches

However, the symptoms often progress to -

1. Breathing problems

2. Respiratory distress

3. Pneumonia

Symptoms of Bird Flu in Birds -

1. Sudden death, without any signs

2. Purple discolouration of legs

3. Misshapen eggs

4. Lack of energy 

5. Nasal discharge

6. Swelling of eyelids, head and wattles

7. Coughing, sneezing

Bird Flu Outbreak in India

After Delhi and Maharashtra reported confirmed cases of bird flu the outbreak has now spread to eight other states and Delhi Union Territory. The other states to report bird flu are Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala. 

Among these states, Haryana has been reported maximum deaths of birth-over 4 lakh deaths in the past few weeks. After seeing the possibility of transmission of the virus to humans the central government has issued an alert.

After many states started reporting unusual deaths of a large number of birds, the bird flu became a worry in the first week of January itself. It is typical of an outbreak to coincide with the season of arrival of the migratory birds, which further took the virus to poultry. 

However, according to the early warning system of the WOAH (World Organization for Animal Health), ‘bird flu outbreak was reported in several other countries including Taiwan and Japan to several European countries and over 48 lakh birds died or were culled in 2020 December’.

The Economic Impact of Bird Flu

The spread of bird flu to nine states within a month has rung the alarm bells at a time when the country is still trying to tame the novel coronavirus. Avian influenza has begun to affect the poultry sector of India that directly affects the livelihood of over three-four crore farmers and farmworkers. 

The immediate impact we get to see from the outbreak is that the price of poultry product has gone down not only in the nine affected states but also in others and UTs where the virus has not been detected yet. 

India per month consumes nearly 30 crore eggs and 900 crore chicken and the poultry sector of the country is worth Rs 80,000 crore. The livelihood of the people involved in this sector is already impacted as the flu will discourage more and more people to consume poultry and poultry products. 

Along with the consumption problem India also exports processed poultry products such as egg powder, yolk powder, chicken products and also pharmaceutical ingredients from poultry sector worth hundreds of crores every year which again is a big loss for the country.

Written by - Harshita Negi

Edited by - Ivanova


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