According to the WHO, the mortality rate for avian influenza is at about 60%, with transmission between bird to human much more likely than that between humans. “Children and elders, with their poor immune system, are more prone to catching the virus. Hand washing, mask wearing and social distancing are key for all types of viral infections, and this is no exception,” said Dr Ganesh R, Senior Consultant - General Pediatrics & Pediatric Metabolic Disorders, Rainbow Children’s Hospital.Contamination may be reduced owing to the low exposure of locals during the shutdown in direct contact with birds. However, doctors urge caution in handling bird meat and other related products. “There is no possibility of transmission through properly cooked meat. However, people must be careful when handling uncooked meat. Washing utensils and cutting boards that have been used when preparing meat thoroughly so that cross contamination does not occur is key,” said Dr Spoorthi Arun, Promed Hospital.
Meanwhile, all those who come into contact with birds must exercise caution, said Dr Jagadeesh C, General Physician, Apollo Hospitals. “Using proper protective equipment, especially masks and gloves, is key when handling meat. Additionally, the virus may spread to bird spit or droppings, so those who have birds as pets must also ensure no direct contact occurs. ,” he said.
While the influenza strain has mutated, no mutations have been recorded that cause human-to-human infection, with no such cases being recorded till 2016. However, flu shots that are administered yearly are ineffective against this strain, said Dr Dr Vijaylakshmi Balakrishnan, Kauvery Hospital.