One of the most dreaded epidemic and potensial pandemic is again making news. This contagious disease of animals has led to death of millions of wild and domestic birds. The major concern worlwide is that of disastrous bird flu outbreak in humans, if the virus mutates into a form which can spread easily from man to man. The ability to mutate quickly poses a hinderence for vaccine preparation and is a hurricane task for the human immune system.
The cause of bird flu is Influenza A virus which has 16 H subtypes and 9 N subtypes. Among them H5 and H7 subtypes are known to cause highly pathogenic disease form.
The illness develops within 1-5 days of exposure to virus. The symptoms in birds may range from ruffled features, a drop in egg production to highly pathogenic form including damage to internal organs and ultimately death.
The symptoms in humans include cough, fever, sorethroat, muscle ache. Complication are viral pneumonia and acute respiratory distress.
Mode of transmision of bird flu:- Migratory waterfowl (natural carriers) shed virus in their dropping, salvia, etc...
The domestic poultry (chicken, turkey, geese) becomes infected through condaminated water, feed or soil. Pigs are especially vulnerable to avian and human viruses. So they serve as ideal medium in which the virus can exchange genes.
Bird flu spread quickly and fataly within domestic poultry and is transported through farm equipments, tractors, cages, etc...
The open air markets, bird smuggling, selling and butchering of sick birds are other prime factors for disease spread.
Avian flu generally doesnot affect humans but in 1997 six persons in Hongkong died due to bird flu. Laboratory confirmed human cases have been reported in four countries - Combodia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam. The virus is now considered endemic in these countries.
Humans become infected via direct contact with infected bird or contaminated surface like feather, droppings, saliva, etc...
The young children and healthy adults havebeen mostly affected although all age groups are affected. Man to man transmission is not yet confirmed.
Magnitude of risk is alarmingly high due to characteristics of Influenza A subtypes.
. Direct transmission - H5N1 virus can directly jump from birds to humans.
. Virulence- Fatality noted in 100 percentage of infected birds and morethan half of infected persons.
. Genetic mutation - Virus has a particular capacity to combine with human flu virus and thereby form a new viral strain which can easily spread from humans to humans. Such a posible undesirable situation would evoke a pandemic.
. Rapid spread- Infected birds amounting to millions have succumbed to death often within 48 hours.
In Ayurvedic perspective it can be considered as ‘Sankramika Roga’ which spread through touch, inhalation etc...
In the broader sense it can be visualized as ‘Janapada Vidhwamsa Karana’ (causing destruction or death of large population) resulting from Adharma ( unrightous behaviour) or ashuchi (unhygenic conditions)
The Bhuta apghata (assault by micro organism) leads to Ojoksaya which implies diminition of essence of body elements. Therefore remedial measures must start from upliftment of body immunity ‘Vyadhiksmatva’ - the ability of the body of prevent development of deseases and resist the develpoed desease.
This can achieved through administration of herbal medicines purifactory therapies, favourable diet and regimen.
Preventive measures include high standards of hygiene, uses of soap and warmwater to wash hand after handling rawpoultry.
. Clean and disinfect surfaces (cutting boards, vessel) in contact with poultry products.
. Since the virus is destroyed by heat, thorough cooking (upto 70 degree celsius) renders cooked poultry harmless for consumption. However avoid use of raw or undercooked eggs. All parts of the poultry should be cooked well (no pink parts, no running yolk).
Juices from raw poultry and poultry products should never be allowed during food preparation to touch or mix with item meant for raw consumption.
The absence of effective vaccine and limited production and high price of the currently used medicine (Tami flu and Relenza) instigates us to give more attention towards preventive measures.