Avian influenza, avian flu, H5N1: the Bird Flu. This century's remarkable epidemic swept away a significant size of the human population, and it had taken the media by storm. It has not yet been a very long time since Bird Flue created a chaos, the headlines in the media shouted warnings against a future mass plague; websites offered vaccine stores online; and politicians were panicking to protect their borders. The disease began to receive widespread attention only after the outbreak of Mad Cow Disease and SARS. The bird flu quickly established itself as the new epidemic of the modern day.
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Avian influenza, sometimes avian flu, and commonly bird flu, refers to influenza caused by viruses adapted to birds. It refers to an illness caused by any of many different strains of influenza viruses that have adapted to a specific host.
The existence of a threat from H5N1 became evident when in 1997, an outbreak of avian influenza occurred among poultry in Hong Kong, and proceeded to infect people as well,
ultimately killing 6 out of the 18 people it infected. This was the first known occurrence of an influenza strain thought to be restricted to birds, which had proceeded to infect and kill people. Since then, H9N2, H7N7 and H5N2 human infections have also been identified. Even with the massive culling and decontamination efforts that China subsequently made, Bird Flu proceeded to spread rapidly among poultry in Southeast Asia, and increasingly affected people in contact with infected birds. Additionally at a Thai zoo in May 2004, 147 out of 441 tigers died or had to be put down because of an H5N1 outbreak that was later determined to be likely to be transmitted through tigers.
Most human contractions of the avian flu are a result of either handling dead infected birds or from contact with infected fluids. While most wild birds mainly have only a mild form of the H5N1 strain, once domesticated birds such as chickens or turkeys are infected, it becomes much more dangerous because the birds are often in close contact of one another. There is currently a large threat of Bird Flu in Asia due to low hygiene conditions and close quarters of poultry. Although it is easy for humans to become infected from birds, it is much more difficult to get infected from humans without close and lasting contact.
The first reports of bird flu in India came from the village of Nawapur in the Nandurbar district of Maharashtra on 19 February 2006. Villagers reported a large number of bird deaths in the village. Maharashtra State Animal Husbandry Ministry authorities rushed to the spot. Lab analysis proved that the poultry was indeed affected with the H5N1 virus.
Soon after the presence of the virus was confirmed, culling operations began. 253000 birds and 587000 eggs were destroyed within 5 days. More than 3.9 million chickens and ducks
were culled to prevent the spread of the virus across the country. Villagers who were exhibiting flu-like symptoms were quarantined and kept under observation. Blood samples from 150 persons were sent to the National Institute of Virology, Pune for analysis. Movement of people into the area was strictly regulated and passenger trains were instructed not to halt at Nawapur. Governments of States which border Maharashtra banned the import of poultry from the latter. Some other State Governments like those of Tamil Nadu and Jammu & Kashmir also introduced similar restrictions. The Government of India asked pharmaceutical companies like Cipla to manufacture anti-flu medication. The Government also started stockpiling Tamiflu. The Indian Army was set on alert to aid in evacuation operations and drug-distribution measures.
Despite the fact that the world has countered Bird Flu very well, it is certain that such a disease can’t be eradicated totally. Research work is in progress to produce amedicine to that might cure a victim of bird flu but the best way to stay safe is to maintain hygiene. It would be apt to say in this context that prevention is better than cure.
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