The first case of humans suffering from the bird flu H5 virus was found recently in Colorado in the U.S. The case came to light on April 28, 2022. Poultry farms all across the U.S. are dealing with a massive outbreak of bird flu. Usually, humans do not contract these bird viruses, but there have been a few cases of that as well. These rare cases have mostly been due to long or close exposure to infected birds. The severity of these cases has been widely different; there have been asymptomatic cases, some have been mild while others have been so severe that they led to death.
The infected person has been identified as a male who is a little under 40. He worked at a farm that had poultry that was infested with the H5 bird flu virus. Therefore, he had direct exposure to the infected birds. He was involved in poultry culling (depopulation) with suspected H5N1 avian influenza. The patient is exhibiting no symptoms of the flu, he is only experiencing fatigue. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment gave out this information about the patient.
The infection was identified in the patient through a nasal sample. There is a probability that the virus was dormant in the man’s nose itself, a virus contracted through close contact with the poultry animals. Despite the lack of any symptoms present in the man, he is in quarantine and also getting an antiviral flu drug. The flock of poultry birds affected by the flu was then killed.
What Is H5 Bird Flu?
The virus for the H5 bird flu is also referred to as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza. in the U.S., various subtypes of the same are present. H5 bird flu is extremely contagious and can spread through a flock of birds and infect the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts of birds. The virus has a high mortality rate for infected poultry, but outbreaks often kill millions of birds by farmers anyway to prevent their spread.
There are several symptoms exhibited by birds if they have contracted an HPAI infection. Some of these symptoms laid down by the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) include loss of energy, lack of coordination, swelling in certain parts, diarrhea, loss of appetite, purple discoloration, sneezing and coughing, decrease in the production of eggs, misshapen eggs, roff- shelled eggs as well as immediate death.
The bird flu virus could be spread by birds through mucus, saliva, or feces. People can contract these bird flu viruses through their eyes, nose, or mouth. It can occur both through the air (when you inhale air droplets or dust that is interspersed with the virus) as well as through physical contact (when you touch a surface with the virus on it and then you touch your eyes, mouth, or were. Looking at all the examples of human contraction of the bird flu virus, it has been noticed that most of these infections have occurred due to unprotected exposure to the birds or by contamination through surfaces that had the bird flu viruses. Surprisingly, there have also been certain cases of human infections where there was neither any direct contact with the bird nor their environment.
How Dangerous Is It For Humans?
It is a real possibility for humans to be infected with the H5 bird flu virus. This could take place through the air or direct contact with the infected atmosphere. This is, however, rare. The case where it was found in a man in Colorado is the first and only case in the United States.
Humans have also been infected with this virus in other countries. In some of these countries, the symptoms of H5 bird flu have resembled those of seasonal influenza. However, there also stands the probability of the disease getting worse. In some situations, it may end up becoming an illness of the lower respiratory tract or severe pneumonia as well. The disease can occasionally even come down to a multi-organ failure or a septic shock. Not using the proper personal protective equipment while coming into contact with birds is a major reason behind the occurrence of the human affliction with the H5 bird flu virus. They were at close distance to either the infected birds or an environment that had spread the H5 bird flu virus.
According to the CDC, the risk to public health and the probability of birds to human transmissions is predicted to be very low. According to early lab studies, these viruses are not well-adapted to people. However, if there is any increased contact with infected birds, there would also be a proportional increase in the chances of infection.
Few Final Words
The spread of bird flu among humans i.e. the transmission of the virus from one human to the other is fairly rare. There have been such occurrences but they are very rare to witness. However, there is still a chance that the viruses could mutate and evolve, and reach a state where they could easily spread among humans and infect them. It’s because of this possibility that we all must stay on guard and monitor the spread of the virus.
Even though the CDC considers the threat of the spread of the bird flu among humans as a low possibility. the threat must still be tried to contain. At this point, the right response to this threat is to take it seriously and get into actions that reflect pre cautiousness and wisdom. More specifically, people who are regularly exposed to birds, such as the ones whose jobs involve birds or poultry run a higher risk of getting infected. They must use the appropriate protective equipment during exposure and also keep in mind the guidelines and precautions which are required for dealing with birds.