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The Bird Flu & Why Humans Should Care

The onset of the redemptive year of 2021 , unfortunately has brought the Bird Flu to Northern India. The Bird flu is also known as ‘Avian Influenza’ and usually is infectious only towards birds. However, it is known to rarely infect other animals and humans. Its most common variant is deadly, causing chronic respiratory illnesses in most birds.

What’s happening in India ?

The bird flu can neither be spread via human-to-human transmission, nor from well-cooked food. However, the panic spread among people, fueled by the health crisis on the centre stage, has caused many regions to take precautionary measures. Many regions including Delhi have banned the sale of processed chickens and storage of poultry. The Delhi government told people ‘ Don’t panic ‘ , and set guidelines like eating only boiled egg and avoiding exposure to sluggish looking chicken, secretions and bird excretion.

The Economics Impact

The poultry industry, weakened by the covid-19 hurricane came into the limelight, as sale of poultry products crashed by 70% due to the bird flu. The poultry industry once again faced a storm as prices dropped by 50% and the wholesale rate (Chicken) dropped from Rs.6 to Rs 4.38. A delegation from the Poultry Industry is set to meet Union Minister Jitendra Singh as state-wide bans begin to enter. Online retailers have also stopped shipping poultry-based products from the outbreak states of Haryana and Punjab. Branded companies like ‘Licious’ haven’t seen a large decline as according to them, people prefer established companies. Farmers however, have been impacted heavily.

On the other hand, the increasing demand of fish and meat has benefitted other industries and their respective workers as many brands and retailers report nearly a 100% increase in their sales. In august 2020, it was estimated nearly Rs 20,000 crore would be required to help recover and bring the Poultry industry to its original state. However with this blow, that number is likely to shoot up.

Human Health

India declared itself free of the virus in 2019, however it has returned once again. Only 10 cases of Humans possessing the virus have been reported in India, 6 being fatal. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported 701 cases worldwide, 407 of them leading to death among humans. India has had a long history of repeated ‘waves’, as disease carrying birds fly from Central Asia towards India in winter as they begin to migrate.

The only stains of the virus that infect humans, are unfortunately the deadly ones, albeit rare. These include the H5N1, H9N2 and others. Government guidelines, aimed at relieving panic have advised, in detail :

  1. Like other viruses, this one too is weak against heat and the Delhi Government has advised cooking poultry-based products, eggs, chicken, etc. well, at 70 degrees for 30 minutes.

  2. Avoid exposure to bird secretions and droppings & wash bowls/caged used

  3. Contact the given helpline number at the sight of a dead bird and do not use naked hands to handle it.

  4. Avoid contact with Sick looking-sluggish chicken.

While this health crisis isn’t as deadly, nor immediately detrimental to human health, it certainly has impacted the lives of many. Especially of those reliant on the industry for money, source of income or as their source of food. Stay safe and follow the government advisories and guidelines as birds now face a challenge similar to which humans are yet to overcome.

~ Nehal Singhal


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