Flu season is starting - How to avoid getting the flu?

Flu season is starting - How to avoid getting the flu?

Avian Influenza (Bird Flu!!)


Bird flu refers to a severe or fatal strain of influenza viruses that affect domesticated or wild birds and can at times also be transmitted to humans. Bird flu as it is conventionally referred to is Avian influenza or Avian flu.

The microscopic infectious agent which replicates only inside living organisms is "VIRUS "a common contagious viral infection that in the higher risk-prone groups could prove deadly is "INFLUENZA or FLU " and the one brought about by viruses adapted to birds is “AVIAN INFLUENZA or AVIANFLU".


There are four types of Influenza viruses ''A", "B", "C"&"D" out of these types "A" is acclimated almost entirely to birds and for most purposes referred to as Avian Influenza. The strain of avian influenza can be categorized into two based on their pathogenicity (potential ability to produce disease) in birds particularly:

(i) High Pathogenicity (HP) -severe and at times deadly 

(ii)Low Pathogenicity (LP)-mild

 Most strains of avian influenza are not highly pathogenic and cause very little signs of disease in wild birds while they can mutate and cause drastic illness in poultry birds.


OUTBREAK of 2021 


The first week of January 2021 was filled with anticipations and hopes wherein our nation was busy manufacturing vaccines for the world's biggest inoculation program and conducting dry runs to deal with SARS -COV-2, another virus fled to the nation affecting drastically not humans but birds this time. 

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) was detected in birds across India and was confirmed in Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Haryanaand Himachal Pradesh also alert has been sounded in Maharashtra, Delhi, and several other states too.

Eyes rose to the issue when several wild birds were found dead in Kerala and Pong Dam Wildlife Sanctuary of Himachal Pradesh.


After the bizarre bird deaths, their samples were sent to Bhopal in the National Institute of High-Security Animal Diseases for investigation, and the strain H5N8 of avian influenza was detected.

The strain H5N8 outbreaks were reported in 2016, in Asia, and was found in domestic ducks in China. Though this strain shows a low risk to humans but is highly fatal to wild birds and poultry.


In Kerala, around 1700 ducks were found dead belonging to a single farmer's flock due to the strain.

Himachal Pradesh reported 3000 birds mostly bar-headed geese infected. Madhya Pradesh officials found 155 crows dead. 

Rajasthan reported infection in peak flows and crows.


Under section 34 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 Indian government can take actions to contain the spread of the flu.

The mass killing of infected birds to avoid the spread of infection is culling. Culling of local chickens and ducks began on 12 January itself in Kerala's Alappuzha and Kottayam areas. Around 69000 birds in Kerala have culled so far. The state has reported the same strain in 2016 too. Maharashtra government ordered the culling of 8000 hens in Parbhani.

Other states are on high alerts too.


The primary source of inception of the infection scientifically speculated are migratory birds who travel to India from Central Asian nations during the winter months and the secondary source of spreading includes human handling (fomites).



Type A viruses at times can stably adapt to humans and hence zoonotic i.e. can be transmitted from animals to humans thus putting humans also at risk. But not all strains of avian influenza viruses infect humans only 5 subtypes H5N1, H7N3, H7N7, H7N9, H9N2 do. Though the spread of the virus in humans is quite low the mortality rate is alarming and is 60%.


The first case of human infection was reported in Hong Kong in 1997 when a poultry farm worker caught the infection from infected birds.

People who are poultry handlers and who deal with the sale of live animals are the ones at the highest risk of getting infected. Another vulnerable group of people include ones with comorbidities or aged above 65 years, pregnant women, and infants aged below 2 years.



-runny nose


-sore throat

-dry cough



-body pain 




-avoid consuming uncooked or partially cooked eggs and chicken

-avoid coming in close contact with infected poultry




There is this myth attached to the consumption of poultry items during the outbreak of this epidemic.

So should one eat them or not?

Scientifically there is little evidence to prove and support the fact that consumption of poultry eggs and meat can infect healthy people.

Therefore it is safe to eat them after thorough washing and cooking.

In fact WHO has also stated that Heat kills any germs /pathogens present on the surface or even beneath the poultry.

-avoid using a microwave for cooking 

- avoid using runny eggs 

- allow the yolk to become firm before eating 

-cook food at or above the temperature of 70-degree Celsius 

-strictly avoid using slaughtered meat 

 and you are good to go.




Humans are at risk of the bird flu but the strain H5N8 subtype detected in birds in 2021 in India has fewer chances of spreading to humans as compared to the H5N1 subtype. This strain is much more lethal for birds. Yet it by no means give us a reason to take it casually. It is important to first segregate the healthy birds and contain the infection and at the same time remain cautious.


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