Is bird flu a cause for concern? Some believe that bird flu will be the next pandemic after covid-19. However, some argue that there is no reason to be concerned because nothing has changed, and the risk of a deadly pandemic remains the same as it was a few years ago.
In the last ten years, bird flu (H5N1) has been the most concerning issue, but most farms were able to avoid outbreaks. However, in 2022, a highly dangerous strain of bird flu spread across the country. This time, the flu was so severe that avoiding the outbreak was difficult, and the outbreak affected approximately 270 farms.
This virus is said to have affected 270 million birds, excluding wild birds. Proper measures have been taken to prevent the spread of bird flu. Many poultry animals infected with this virus have been slaughtered. A total of approximately 193 million selective slaughtering’s have been recorded. To prevent the spread of this flu, the selective slaughter was also carried out, with an estimated 193 million birds slaughtered. There are two risks associated with bird flu. The first is the bird population, and the second, more serious, is human health if the virus spreads from birds to humans.
Because it killed 15 million domestic birds, bird flu had a significant impact on the bird population. Some of the birds were infected, while others were only members of the affected group. The vast majority of infected birds were farm birds.
One study found that this virus killed about 10% of the birds.H5N1 is another name for bird flu. H5N1 proteins are those that our bodies can detect and recognize. H1N1 is a common type of flu, and most people’s bodies can begin to fight it. Human immune systems, however, are currently incapable of detecting H5N1.
How has bird flu evolved?
Bird flu, also known as avian influenza, is caused by influenza. A virus that primarily affects birds but can infect humans and other animals as well. These viruses are constantly evolving as a result of mutations and genetic assortment, which can lead to the emergence of new strains with distinct characteristics. Bird flu viruses are of two types
- low-pathogenic viruses
- highly pathogenic viruses
Many strains of the bird flu virus are endemic in wild birds, such as waterfowl. They are transmitted to domestic poultry via contact with contaminated surfaces or fluids, such as droppings or nasal secretions. Humans can become ill if they come into close contact with infected birds, such as during handling or slaughtering.
Thus, bird flu evolution is a complex process involving genetic mutations, transmission between different animal species, and human behavior and animal interactions. To better understand the evolution of bird flu and develop effective strategies to control its spread and reduce its impact on human and animal health, ongoing surveillance and research are required.
What distinguishes a pandemic from a regular flu season?
A pandemic flu has little in common with seasonal flu. A pandemic flu virus would be a new disease and a far more dangerous flu virus. A new strain of influenza would have no natural immunity in humans. Medicines can be used to treat seasonal flu but not pandemic viruses.
Can humans get the Bird Flu?
Humans can get the disease in the following two ways:
- Through animals
- Through human contact or air
Bird flu can infect humans, but this rarely happens. The majority of human cases of bird flu (H5N1) have been brought on by direct or close contact with infected birds or their secretions, like handling or butchering infected poultry or by coming into contact with surfaces that have been contaminated with bird droppings or fluids.
The risk of contracting bird flu is typically low, even though it can be a serious illness in humans. Although the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain is responsible for the majority of human cases of bird flu, H7N9 and H9N2 have also been reported to infect people. Mild to severe symptoms can include a fever, cough, sore throat, and respiratory issues.
Among other mammals, bird flu has also been seen in other mammals like grizzly bears, foxes, raccoons, and skunks. A girl from Ecuador was identified as having bird flu in January 2023. This case was the first one in Latin America. However, there is very little chance that the virus will spread and start a new pandemic.
Fortunately, precautions can be taken to lessen the chance of catching bird flu, such as avoiding contact with sick or dead birds, maintaining good hygiene, and thoroughly cooking poultry products. Veterinarians and poultry workers, for example, maybe more susceptible to infection and should take extra precautions to safeguard themselves.
Threat of Bird Flu pandemic
Since the beginning of 2022, seven human cases have been reported. All of the reported cases were caused by poultry exposure. Four among the seven cases were not serious as the virus was unable to effect the lungs. The remaining three cases were all severe, and one of them ended up dead because of this virus. The rate of human infection with bird flu was quite high in 1997. It is estimated that approximately 880 people were infected with this virus at the time, but this has not been the case since 2016. But none of the viruses found in humans appear to be infected by other humans.
Experts believe that any virus should have the following characteristics in order to start a pandemic.
- Virus transmission among humans via the air
- Our immune system should be unfamiliar with the virus.
- The virus is expected to cause human diseases.
Fortunately, bird flu (H5N1) does not meet any of these criteria. As a result, there is no need to be concerned about a human pandemic occurring in the near future.
Treatment of bird flu
It is advised to begin antiviral medications as soon as possible after being diagnosed with bird flu. These medications work best when started early. If critical patients’ health does not improve after taking antiviral medications or if they have other complaints, they must be hospitalized right away to avoid serious harm.
Should the public worry over bird flu?
The risk of H5N1 bird flu spreading to humans is extremely low. However, because this virus primarily infects poultry and birds, it poses a threat to animals. To avoid even the slightest chance of contracting this virus, avoid contact with the infected animal, bird, or even poultry. Consume only properly cooked poultry products. Don’t eat raw eggs because eating raw or uncooked products can lead to human infection.
Bird flu (H5N1) is a major concern for both poultry and public health. Attempts are being made to prevent the spread of this virus. There has been significant progress in this area, but there is still work to be done. The poultry industry should also pay attention to and ensure the safety of both poultry animals and humans. To better understand bird flu, one must continue to research it and keep a close eye on it. The risk of exposing humanity and poultry animals can be reduced by taking appropriate precautions.
The content is written by Shaheera. She has been writing health articles for the past three years.