Hygiene matters, say doctors

Avian influenza (H5N1) has caused quite a stir among Bangaloreans. So much so, many have shunned poultry products, including chicken and eggs. But well-cooked or boiled poultry products are safe for consumption.

When it comes to eggs, doctors, however, advise that the shells be washed thoroughly, as faecal matter sometimes sticks to the covering.

Although elaborate measures had been taken to contain the infection within the Central Poultry Development Organisation (CPDO) at Hesaraghatta, the epicentre of the infection, poultry products were banned at many places in Bangalore. The fear had many refrain from buying or eating poultry products, resulting in losses to several big establishments for a few days.

Dr M Seenappa, former Unicef programme officer, says that although there is no known case of a person suffering from avian influenza in India, apparently a veterinary doctor in Punjab had died of the disease.

“A veterinarian working during the bird flu epidemic a few years ago had contracted the virus and died. Since his samples were not collected, the reason for his death could not be established,” he said.

Seenappa points out that cases of humans contracting avian influenza have been reported only in Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand, as people and poultry live together in these countries.

Avian influenza is like common cold. Many a time, it may have affected a person, but he/she would have recovered from the infection. Although there have been deaths due to bird flu, it is mainly because of complications in infection and neglecting the line of treatment for the flu, which has caused death, added Seenappa.

According to him, unlike H1N1 influenza, which can easily spread from person to person even with a handshake, a person has to constantly be exposed to H5N1 virus for a longer time to get infected. Those under this category are poultry workers exposed to chicken and eggs for hours inside a farm.

The virus normally spreads through bird excreta and affects lung tissues. With prompt diagnoses and administration of  antiviral drug Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or Zanamivir (Relenza), a patient can be cured.

The bottom line: Don’t fear. Take precautionary measures and spread awareness about the flu.

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