Bird flu scare resurfaces

18 January, 2008

As India faces fears of a Bird Flu outbreak, a World Health Organization (WHO) report has warned the H5N1 bird flu virus may sometimes stick to surfaces or get kicked up in fertilizer dust posing the threat of infecting people.

It has been found that most of time the virus is passed directly from bird to humans. The WHO report has also added that it is very rare that one person can infect another. The report is based on a study done on all known human cases of avian influenza, which has infected 350 people in 14 countries and killed 217 of them since 2003. The report went on to add that in some patients, the source of exposure was unclear, and environment-to-human transmission remained a possibility.

Adding that the reasons could be the small particles of virus-contaminated fluid stuck to surfaces, the report pointed out that it could also be that fertilizer made from infected bird feces had carried the virus into people's bodies. It is however unknown whether the H5N1 virus infection can begin in the human gastrointestinal tract. Many of the patients have been diagnosed with diarrheal diseases and respiratory symptoms.

Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East have seen the bird flu disease occur frequently resulting in the culling of millions of chickens. Though it has been found that infection in humans are rare, there have been fears that the virus will mutate into a strain that passes easily from one person to another, triggering an epidemic that could kill millions of people in just a few months time. After exposure to infected chicken, the incubation period generally appears to be 7 days or less, and in many cases this period is 2 to 5 days, according to the report. It has been found that the flu kills within 10 days. A total of 61 percent of affected victims have dies so far.




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