Caution against flu threat from migratory birds

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, FEB. 9. The health authorities have asked the public to be on the alert against the possible occurrence of bird flu, in the context of reports of the disease from the neighbouring Asian nations, including Pakistan.

The Additional Director of Health Services (Public Health), P. K. Sivaraman, however, said that the warning was mainly intended for those working in hatcheries and that at present, there was no basis for a public scare or speculation regarding the safety of eating poultry meat and eggs as not a single case of bird flu has so far been reported from the country.

Since a large population of migratory birds arrive in different parts of the State every year, these birds could pass on the influenza virus to domestic poultry.

Hence poultry farmers in the areas where migratory bird colonies were present should be on the alert, Dr. Sivaraman said. Animal husbandry officials have also been asked to step up surveillance in these areas.

People who work in close contact with birds, especially those in poultry farms, should keep a watch on the birds and any instances of sudden or unexplained bird deaths should be reported immediately to the District Medical Officer, the Primary Health Centre and the Animal Husbandry officials. Since the virus was air-borne, it would be advisable for poultry workers to use gloves and masks, he said.

The clinical symptoms of bird flu were not much different from that of human influenza.

These included fever, features of common cold such as sore throat and cough, chest pain and in the acute stage, pneumonia.

Dr. Sivaraman pointed out that at present, the disease was being passed on from birds to humans and not between humans.

However, the virus could mutate easily and acquire the characteristics of human influenza virus and lead to a pandemic, he added.

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