Bird flu: No need to panic, say doctors

Following the bird flu (H5N1) scare in Karnataka, doctors say there is no reason to panic as the chances of bird flu infecting a human is very remote.

This is because the receptors of the H5N1 virus are not located in the upper respiratory tract like Influenza ‘A’ H1N1 (swine flu).

“Not even a single case of bird flu among human beings has been reported in India,” V. Ravi, former head of the Department of Neurovirology at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), told The Hindu on Thursday.

He said that only those who are in contact with the infected birds and health workers examining poultry workers are at risk. “This is not the first time that bird flu is being reported. We have been seeing this outbreak once every two years, but we have been able to tackle it early by culling birds,” he said.

“During the current outbreak, the good thing is that we have a system in place. The COVID-19 precautions of SMS – Sanitisation, Masking and Social Distancing – that people are following is the best defence against all viruses,” Dr. Ravi said.

The doctor, who is a member of the State’s COVID-19 Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), said the receptors of H5N1 are deep down in the lungs, unlike in H1N1 or COVID-19 where the virus can attach itself to a human being through the nasal cavity.

“The human body has several defence barriers in the upper respiratory tract to check the virus. A person has to inhale high loads of the virus and that should go deep down into the respiratory tract to get infected,” he said.

Health and Medical Education Minister K. Sudhakar said the State government has taken all measures to contain the outbreak.

Samples sent

“Six crows have died in Dakshina Kannada district. Their samples have been to the forensic lab for tests. Once the reports come, we will know if it is bird flu. Meanwhile, all precautionary measures have been taken in border districts,” he added.

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Sagar Biswas

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