In the last few days, more than 24,000 birds have died due to bird flu in states like Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The central government has issued a bird flu alert and ordered the states to monitor the birds in forests and around wetlands and lakes.  

In Himachal Pradesh, about 3,400 migratory birds have been found dead around the Pong Dam Lake. In Kerala, 20,000 ducks have been found dead, prompting the government to order the culling of ducks. Over 600 crows have been found dead in several districts of Rajasthan and 400 bird deaths were reported in Madhya Pradesh. Recently, about one lakh poultry birds have been found dead in Haryana and the government has also started a survey to identify people with flu symptoms in the affected area. 

People need to be extra cautious as the cases of bird flu are increasing day by day. Understanding the symptoms of bird flu is important to prevent the spread of infection and for effective treatment.  

Here is all the information about bird flu that you need to know:

What is bird flu?  

Bird flu or avian influenza is an infectious viral disease caused by Influenza Type A viruses. The virus normally affects birds like chickens, turkeys, and ducks. But it can cause infection in many different animals, including pigs, whales, horses, and seals.  

How does the virus spread?  

The bird flu virus is naturally present in several wild aquatic birds like ducks and geese. When these birds migrate, they shed the viruses in the feces, nasal secretions, or droppings from the mouth or eyes while flying. In this way, the viruses spread to poultry birds and other animals such as pigs, horses, cats, and dogs.  

When did the bird flu start infecting humans?  

In 1997, the first known transmission of bird flu to a human occurred in Hong Kong. The infection was caused by the H5N1 strain and 6 out of 18 infected people died of the disease. After that, all the poultry birds in the area were culled and no more cases were diagnosed. Since then, the virus has re-emerged and has infected several birds and humans in various parts of the world. Even H5N2 and H5N8 strains of the virus have also spread from animals to humans.  

According to a WHO report, millions of birds have become infected with the virus and 359 people have died from H5N1 in twelve countries as of August 10, 2012. Now, the bird flu virus is becoming a global public health concern.  

The bird flu virus doesn’t transmit easily from birds to humans. But people who come in close contact with infected birds can catch the infection. Thankfully, the virus does not spread from person to person or by eating properly cooked poultry food as the virus dies at a higher temperature.   

Is the bird flu virus deadly?  

The answer is yes. The flu viruses are very deadly and they can mutate very easily because of their segmented genome. If the virus starts to mutate, it can easily transmit from one human to another and can cause a bird flu outbreak.   

What are the symptoms of bird flu in animals?

The symptoms of the infection depend on the virus strain. Some strains can cause mild symptoms such as diarrhea, nasal discharge, coughing, sneezing, low egg production, soft-shelled or misshapen eggs, and lack of energy. While some strains are severe and can cause a lack of coordination and sudden death.   

Poultry farm owners and workers should be aware of the symptoms of bird flu so they can immediately quarantine the farm to prevent the spread of the disease. They should also inform about the disease to the animal health officials as soon as possible.  

What are the symptoms of bird flu in humans?

In humans, the virus affects the respiratory system and causes symptoms like fever, cough, sore throat, diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain. While in severe cases, it can lead to pneumonia, Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), and even death.   

What are the prevention and treatment options?

Experts advise poultry workers, animal control workers, and wildlife biologists to use PPE kits while handling birds and follow proper hand hygiene. People who do not come into contact with birds have low chances of getting infections. People exposed to the bird flu virus can be treated by antiviral drugs such as oseltamivir.