Avian Flu

News: India has recorded first death due to H5N1 avian influenza this year.

What is bird flu?

  • Also called avian influenza. It is a disease caused by avian influenza Type A viruses found naturally in wild birds worldwide. The virus can infect domestic poultry and there have been reports of H5N1 infection among pigs, cats, and even tigers in Thailand zoos. Symptoms have ranged from mild to severe influenza-like illness.
  • Avian Influenza type A viruses are classified based on two proteins on their surfaces – Hemagglutinin(HA) and Neuraminidase(NA). There are about 18 HA subtypes and 11 NA subtypes. Several combinations of these two proteins are possible e.g., H5N1, H7N2, H9N6, H17N10, etc.
  • There have been reports of avian and swine influenza infections in humans. The infection is deadly as it has a high mortality rate of about 60%. The most common route of virus transmission is direct contact. They can also be affected if they come in contact with contaminated surfaces or air near the infected poultry.