After bird flu was identified in Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, high alert has been sounded in several states. Several states have banned the import of poultry into their state. Several states are scrambling to test and stop the spread of the disease among birds. What is Bird Flu? Should we be worried?
What causes Bird Flu?
Bird Flu is caused by several strains of Influenza A viruses with H5N1 being the most common strain affecting the birds. Though most strains tend to cause mild infection in birds, some strains particularly H5N1 tends to be deadly. Bird Flu has been affecting our poultry for decades. Geese and Ducks are natural reservoirs of this virus, and the spread them worldwide through their droppings.
Can Bird Flu spread to humans?
Human cases of H5N1 have been reported in Hong Kong during the year 1997. People who handle birds and their caresses have been reported to be infected by Bird Flu. As per WHO, there has been no reported case of human-human transmission and claims it to be extremely unlikely. But there is still a possibility that the virus might mutate to spread more effectively between human beings potentially causing a pandemic.
Something that is concerning about H5N1 is 6 out 10 reported cases of humans infected with H5N1 have died. Although mortality rate might be lower than that as there might be unreported asymptomatic cases of H5N1. It is to be noted that FDA has approved a vaccine for H5N1 in the year 2007.
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So, what is the take? Are we safe?
In reality, not really. HIV, SARS, Ebola, COVID all these pandemics has shown us that we are not ready. We are not ready for a global pandemic if or when it occurs. We have shown tremendous growth in medical technology, but in reality – it’s not enough. It’s something health advocated including Bill Gates has been shouting for years. We have a vaccine for Flu, yet millions die because of Flu every year. India has been vaccinating children for Polio from 1978, but only in the year 2012 India completed a year without a case of Polio. HIV was first isolated in the year 1983, still we do not have a viable vaccine.
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With modern day transportation, it takes no time before a virus quickly spreads worldwide. It’s no secret that more time and money need to be spent in medical research. Protocols must be put into place to prevent a pandemic right at its epi center. More time and money need to be spent to understand more about viruses and our immune system. Until then, we are not really safe from next pandemic.