Officials, experts allay bird flu fears, but advise caution

Chances of humans contracting virus less; well-cooked poultry products safe

Officials, experts allay bird flu fears, but advise caution

Officials and experts see no cause for concern following the outbreak of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (AI) at the Central Poultry Development Organisation (CPDO) at Hesaraghatta, just a few kilometres from the City. The citizens too are taking it easy.

Officials in the health department of the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike say there is no reason to worry as yet. Their counterparts in the department of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Sciences (AH&VS) agree. In line with this argument, experts believe most AI viruses do not infect humans.

However some, such as H5N1, have caused serious infections among humans in the past. Experts say the case fatality rate for H5N1 virus infections in humans is much higher compared to seasonal influenza infections.

“The disease caused by the H5N1 virus follows an unusually aggressive clinical course with rapid deterioration and has high fatality,” the World Health Organisation (WHO) says, adding that like most emerging diseases, the H5N1 influenza in humans is poorly understood.

The incubation period for AI may be longer than that for normal seasonal influenza, which is two to three days.

Data with WHO shows that H5N1 infection indicates an incubation of two to eight days and possibly as long as 17 days.  Thereby, an incubation period of seven days is recommended for field investigations and monitoring of patient contacts.

According to doctors, poultry workers involved in culling of birds, sanitising the farms and veterinary doctors are the most vulnerable to bird flu. If a proper protocol is followed, in terms of using protective gears and undergoing health check-ups, avian influenza (H5N1) can be curbed completely.  

Dr V Ravi, head of Neurovirology department, Nimhans, said there was no need to panic as the chances of humans contracting the virus from the bird were very unlikely and had never happened in India.  

“Since the area within the one kilometre radius of the Hesaraghatta farm has been quarantined, the infection cannot spread.  Well cooked poultry products can be consumed. However, as a precautionary measure, it is better to wash the eggs before using them,” he said.

Symptoms

In humans, initial symptoms include high fever and other influenza-like symptoms. Diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain, chest pain and bleeding from the nose and gums have also been reported as early symptoms in some patients.

One symptom seen in many patients is the infection of the lower respiratory tract early in the illness. On present evidence, difficulty in breathing develops around five days after the first symptoms.

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