Flying Away From the Flu

bird.jpgEven after veteran actor Sanjay Dutt endorsed chicken meat all over the country, proclaiming loud and clear that it is safe and healthy, we yet again face the problem of Avian Influenza or bird flu, as it is commonly referred as. Already, it has spread its wings around the world and has claimed millions of lives. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 36, 000 people die of Influenza in the United States each winter.

In Kolkatta, the workers who were involved in tending to the poultry, demanded increase in their remuneration for areas like Coochbhear’s Dinhata block and the Debra block of West Midnapore district, which have been hit by bird flu. Even after being aware of the fact that out of 19 districts, 13 are under the threat of bird flu, the culling modus operandi is still in progress.

Indonesia has also been facing losses with as many as 125 bird flu cases have been reported in humans since its origin in 2003.

Being under major stress due to this issue, the Indian Government is seeking help from Bangladesh and is gathering details like the number of people affected and the amount of poultry affected by the virus in order to establish the source of the eruption in West Bengal. Furthermore, the Health Ministry is seeking help from the Ministry of External Affairs to inquire about sequencing of bird flu gene pool, tracking its origin and so on. It was also hinted upon that one of the reasons could be the influx of migratory birds carrying this virus.

To inform the readers, Influenza viruses are usually of three types – Influenza A, B, C. While Type A deals with deadly pestilence, Type B leads to lesser strains and Type C shows milder symptoms. These viruses, by nature, are habitual to change in their genetic makeup and swap genes. Thus, they are extremely erratic and lethal.

Usually, humans get bird flu by close contact either with the contaminated and grimy poultry or by objects infected with the virus. They are high in number especially where there are a lot of chicken and pigs, that are extremely prone to the virus. Influenza can also be prevalent in the open markets where the birds are slaughtered and butchered. A H5NI virus that transmutes with the human flu virus and spreads hastily, results in a potentially shocking pandemic, causing the infection. Typically, its indicators can be cough, cold, fever but when serious, it can lead to viral pneumonia, major respiratory problems etc.

A vaccine was prepared in April 2007 by the Food and Drug administration to preclude infection to the H5NI virus. It is not available to the public yet, but it will be circulated in the event of a major epidemic.

To be on the safer side, all the bird eaters should wash the poultry items well before cooking and cook them scrupulously without leaving any sign of uncooked meat in it. Regular Flu shots should be taken while traveling. Parents should keep a stern check on what the children eat and streetside and unhygienically cooked food should be discouraged.

Kaveri Trehan