New Delhi: In a major blow to the poultry industry, the Bird flu outbreak has now been confirmed in nine states — Delhi, Maharashtra, Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat, and Uttar Pradesh. While 800 birds died in Maharashtra in the last 48 hours, administration in other states was forced to cull ducks, chickens, and other domestic birds within a kilometer radius in and around the affected areas.Also Read - Kerala: 12,000 Ducks Culled in Alappuzha Amid Bird Flu Alert

Earlier in the day, testing of eight samples sent to a Bhopal-based laboratory has confirmed bird flu in Delhi. All eight samples — four from a park in Mayur Vihar Phase 3, three from Sanjay Lake, and one from Dwarka — have been found positive for avian influenza, Dr Rakesh Singh from the animal husbandry unit of the Development Department said. Following this, the poultry market in Ghazipur has also been shut down temporarily. Also Read - Bird Flu Confirmed In Kerala's Alappuzha Once Again, Culling of Birds Ordered in Affected Areas

What is Bird Flu?  Also Read - 189 Birds Dead in Rajasthan Due to Avian Influenza

Bird flu or Avian influenza is a highly infectious and severe respiratory disease in birds caused by the H5N1 influenza virus, which can occasionally infect humans as well.

Avian influenza viruses have been circulating worldwide for centuries with four known major outbreaks recorded in the last century. India reported its first outbreak in 2006. In India, the disease spreads mainly by migratory birds flying to the country during winter months, from September–October to February–March.

How does it (Bird Flu or Avian Influenza) spread? 

Bird Flu is a communicable virus among the avian population and human to human spread is not too prominent with the current strain.

However, viruses are prone to mutation, so if this virus undergoes mutation in future, it has the potential to spread from human to human and cause a pandemic.

Rare cases of human infection with these viruses have also been reported, especially in individuals working with infected domestic birds.

“The possible cause of infections in humans is when they come in contact with birds with the viruses and enough viruses get into a person’s eyes, nose or mouth, or is inhaled through the excretions of birds,” said Kunal Kothari, Senior Physician, Internal Medicine, SMS Medical College in Jaipur.

“The spread of Bird Flu from one individual, who is sick to another has been very rare and data is limited, inefficient and not sustained but as a precaution, we should all be watchful of public health advisory,” Kothari added.

What are the symptoms and signs of avian flu in humans?

Cough, fever, sore throat, muscle aches, pneumonia, and other complications.

Safe to eat chicken, eggs?

According to the World Health organisation (WHO), cooking of poultry (e.g. chicken, ducks and geese) at or above 70 degree Celsius so that absolutely no meat remains raw and red, is a safe measure to kill the virus in areas with outbreaks in poultry.

Richa Sareen, consultant (pulmonology) at Fortis Vasant Kunj in New Delhi, said the virus is heat-labile and it gets killed with cooking temperatures.

“At this time, people should eat fully cooked chicken and eggs and not raw or partially cooked ones. One should avoid going to open markets that sell poultry as they are the focal point of the spread,” Sareen told IANS.

“People who handle poultry should take special precautions. They should wear PPE, gloves and masks while handling birds and should practice frequent hand washing,” she added.

Is there a vaccine for humans against avian flu?

There is no vaccine for humans against avian flu. The vaccine against human influenza virus does not protect against avian flu.