Bird Flu Symptoms Influenza Virus Causes Precautions Dos Donts Does It Spread From Poultry Consumption

Bird flu: Bird flu scare has gripped parts of country after cases have been confirmed in states like Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan.

In the last one week, a total of 522 birds have died in Rajasthan, out of which 471 were crows, while others include heron and baya weaver.  In Madhya Pradesh, a bird flu alert has been sounded after presence of the dreaded virus was found in dead crows in Indore and more avian deaths were reported in other districts. In Kerala, government has decided culling of over 40,000 birds.

Here are few things that you must know about the disease.

What is bird flu?

Avian influenza, or “bird flu” or “avian flu” is an infection caused by avian influenza viruses. These flu viruses occur naturally among birds. Though most of the wild birds worldwide carry the viruses in their intestines, they do not get sick from them. It is highly contagious among birds and can make some domesticated birds, including chickens and ducks sick and ultimately kill them.

What are its causes?

The disease happens due to H5N1 virus and is caused by a type of influenza virus. HPAI A(H5N1) or Highly Pathogenic Asian Avian Influenza A(H5N1) Virus is considered an avian disease. It occurs mainly in birds and is highly contagious among them and is especially deadly for poultry.

How does it spread?

The virus is highly contagious among avians and is deadly for poultry birds. There are some evidence of limited human-to-human transmission of the virus.  Humans can contract bird flu when they come in close contact with sick birds, mostly while handling of infected poultry, though, it is not said to be communicable among humans.

The majority of human cases of influenza A (H5N1) virus infection have been associated with direct or indirect contact with infected live or dead poultry. Controlling the disease in the animal source is critical to decrease risk to humans, states WHO.


As per Healthline, you may have an H5N1 infection if you experience typical flu-like symptoms such as:

  • cough
  • diarrhea
  • respiratory difficulties
  • fever (over 100.4°F or 38°C)
  • headache
  • muscle aches
  • malaise
  • runny nose
  • sore throat

Is it safe to eat poultry and poultry products?

As per All India Institute Of Medical Sciences, (AIIMS), poultry and poultry products can be prepared and consumed as usual, with no fear of acquiring infection with the avian flu virus.  One should continue to follow good hygienic and cooking practices.  The virus is destroyed at a temperature of 70 degree C for 30 minutes. After handling poultry and eggs, one should wash hands and other exposed parts with soap and water.

Eggs should be cooked until the yolks and whites are firm and should never be served runny.

How can avian flu be controlled in poultry?

At present, culling is the only way to contain avian flu in poultry.

Prevention and cure:

In a question and answer blog, AIIMs stated that there is no vaccine for humans against avian flu. There is no recommendation for the routine use of medicines for the prevention of bird flu in humans.

However, one must know that best prevention is to avoid sources of exposure. Avoid consuming domesticated birds, buying meat from open-market, small farms. Use of sanitisers and consumption of  antiviral drugs within 48 hours of showing symptoms, can be some of the early preventive steps, as per several health blogs.

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