A 11-year-old boy from Haryana who died today at Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) was infected with the H5N1 virus, which is also called ‘avian influenza’ or ‘bird flu’. This is believed to be the first case of H5N1 among humans in India, and the first bird flu death this year.
A report from Pune’s National Institute of Virology confirmed the infection.
Sources told news agency PTI his samples tested negative for COVID-19 (testing for which is now routine at hospitals) but was positive for influenza and H5N1 was confirmed by by the NIV.
Staff who came in contact with the boy, identified as Susheel and admitted July 2 with pneumonia and leukemia, have been asked to self-monitor for symptoms and report in case of a possible infection.
A team from the National Centre for Disease Control has been sent to Susheel’s village in Haryana to check for more H5N1 cases and carry out contact tracing.
Earlier this year thousands of wild birds were found dead and tens of thousands of poultry were culled after a massive wave of bird flu cases swept several states, including Haryana.
Several of the infections, however, were from a different strain of the virus – H5N8 – which experts say is less dangerous to humans.
Nevertheless, by January-end the centre sounded an alert as it confirmed bird flu among poultry in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh, as well as Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, UP and Punjab.
Over 50,000 birds were killed in Punjab, Maharashtra and Kerala each as precaution, with thousands more killed in other states.
Bird flu cases were also reported among migratory birds and crows in forests in Uttarakhand’s Rudraprayag, Jharkhand’s Tetar and Gujarat’s Junagad, as well as peacocks in Beed in Maharashtra.
Four serological samples of bird droppings from Delhi Zoo also tested positive.
The spread of cases prompted some states to ban the sale of poultry for some time, particularly for stock imported from other states, and also restrict sale of chicken or egg-based dishes by restaurants.
According to the World Health Organization, ‘avian influenza’, or ‘bird flu’, is a type of influenza virus that causes a highly infectious, severe respiratory disease in birds.
The global health body says human cases of H5N1 avian influenza occur occasionally, but adds it is usually difficult to transmit the infection from person to person.
The WHO adds that there is no evidence the disease can be spread through thoroughly cooked food.
However, when people do become infected, the mortality rate is a frightening 60 per cent.
With input from PTI