With dire consequences for poultry industry, international trade, farmers’ livelihoods, avian influenza has drawn attention of global community since the last few years. During outbreaks, the usual policy is that of culling all the poultry (irrespective of being healthy or infected), so as to stop the further spread of the disease. This, in turn, incurs loads of economic losses for the farmers, which could take them ages to cover them up.
However, poultry is not the only sector affected. Wild birds could also bear brunt. Avian influenza is also amongst the major concerns regarding public health. Along with the US and UK, China is gripped with avian influenza now.
China battling Avian Influenza?
China has tabled its very first human infection with bird flu’s H3N8 strain, but as per the health authority, risk of it being spread amongst the people is quite low.
A 4-year boy was from Henan province’s central province, who displayed fever and various other symptoms on April 5, as stated by the National Health Commission on Tuesday.
The child was reported to be in touch with crows and chicken that were raised at his residence. It is a well-known fact that H3N8 variant is found in dogs and horses and has also been located in seals. NHC has confirmed that none of the human cases have been reported as yet.
The entire genome sequence has been analysed, which indicates that H3N8 virus in the humans is reassortant. In other words, genes from the viruses were detected initially in wild birds and poultry, as per Nicola Lewis, one of the experts at the Royal Veterinary College in Britain.
As per Erik Karlsson (deputy head of Cambodia’s Institut Pasteur’s virology unit), the virus asks for expanded surveillance. He further added that the virus had its implication in influenza pandemic that had occurred in the year 1889 (known as Russian Flu).
China is home to both – wild and farmed birds of several species, which make way for an exclusive environment for mixing as well as mutation of avian viruses. Some of them do infect people sporadically, especially the ones working with poultry.
The year 2021 witnessed China reporting the very first human case pertaining to H10N3. The health commission did say that initial studies revealed that variant was unable to infect humans effectively, and also that risk of big-scale epidemic was abysmal.
Humans, Be Careful!
In spite of being a rare occurrence, infections in the humans is likely to cause adaptive mutations that do let the viruses spread more easily in the mammals. Spillover events need to be taken care of.
This H3N8, as stated above, has less likelihood of spreading in humans, but it’s certainly not something that could be taken lightly. If infected with, it needs to be addressed on priority. This avian influenza, as the name suggests, does spread through birds, but any foreign particle entering the human body ought to be a matter of grave concern. Though humans have their resistance power to counter, monitoring by healthcare personnel is advised.