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Bird flu outbreak in Kerala's Alappuzha: Causes, symptoms and prevention tips of H5N1 flu

Due to the sudden outbreak of bird flu in Kerala's Alappuzha, we should be aware of the signs and symptoms. The signs and symptoms of H5N1 include fever, chills, headache, sore throat, runny nose, persistent cough, body aches, fatigue, muscle aches, vomiting and dehydration.

Written By : Health Desk Edited By : Kristina Das
New Delhi
Published on: April 19, 2024 13:22 IST
Bird Flu
Image Source : SOCIAL Know the causes, symptoms and prevention tips of H5N1 flu.

There has been a recent outbreak of bird flu or avian influenza by the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 in Kerala’s Alappuzha district. It is caused by a specific type of influenza virus, which usually affects poultry, chickens, ducks, geese, etc. Mass infections in the birds have been reported in the said district of Kerala. 

According to Dr Monalisa Sahu, Consultant Infectious Diseases, Yashoda Hospitals Hyderabad, the H5N1 strain has infected avian birds, sea birds, and mammals across the globe. The current infection has been caused by the H5N1 virus clade 2.3.4.4b, which was first reported in Europe in 2020. It has been associated with multiple outbreaks across the globe, claiming the lives of millions of birds and mammals. Human infection is possible by this virus in individuals near or those who closely interact with these birds. Human-to-human transmission by this virus has also been reported. 

Signs and symptoms:

The signs and symptoms of this Influenza virus are similar to other viral respiratory illnesses including COVID-19. 

Signs and symptoms of severe disease which require the immediate attention of the doctor and hospitalization include high-grade persistent fever, difficulty in breathing, increased rates of breathing, severe or persistent vomiting, dehydration, low blood pressure, worsening of the existing chronic medical condition like asthma, diabetes, chest pain, and low oxygen saturations,  bluish discolouration of face and lips, confusion or disorientation. 

Having any of these symptoms should warrant a prompt visit to the doctor, as antiviral medications are available, which work well when started early in the course of the disease. They should not use over-the-counter medications like antibiotics and steroids, as this is a viral infection, and antibiotics have no role to play.

The complications of H5N1 can be severe pneumonia, leading to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), requiring mechanical ventilation. 

Distinguishing this condition from other bacterial infections is also essential, through lab testing, as the management of both conditions is different. 

Prevention of the H5N1 is essential:

Taking the influenza vaccine of this season, for the Southern Hemisphere, as prescribed by your doctor is recommended for all individuals above 6 months of age, to prevent the incidence and severity of the influenza. 

Infection can be avoided by not handling birds which are seemingly sick. The other precautions for preventing the disease are those similar to those that are recommended for COVID-19.

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