Nepal | January 17, 2021

Bird flu outbreak confirmed, but under control

Ujjwal Satyal
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Kathmandu, April 7

An outbreak of bird flu has been confirmed in Kathmandu, but doctors have asked people not to panic as the virus is of low risk to humans.

Around 350 crows found dead in Lainchaur and Durbar Marg areas have tested positive for H5N1 strain of the disease, according to the Department of Livestock Services. The birds were found dead in the third week of March.

Similar strain of virus was found in different birds, including chicken, last year as well. “But this is the first time such a large number of dead crows had tested positive for H5N1 strain of the disease,” said DoLS Director General Bimal Kumar Nirmal.

People need not worry much about the outbreak of disease, as it does not generally kill people, according to Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, coordinator of Clinical Research Unit at Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital at Teku. Bird flu also does not pose food safety risk to humans if meat and eggs infected with the disease are cooked at 70 degree Celsius before consuming.

It, however, may pose severe health problems to humans if the disease is not diagnosed and treated on time, Dr Pun said.

Humans can contract H5N1 virus from saliva, excretion and feathers of the infected birds. “So, stay away from dead birds,” said Nirmal. “If dead birds have to be picked up put on gloves, masks and other protective gears and inform authorities about dead birds.”

The detection of the bird flu virus in crows has worried many as this type of bird, unlike chicken, can fly, spreading the disease to other animals and even humans. Doctors have, thus, warned people to keep their pets, such as dogs and cats, away from dead birds.

“The dead birds may also fall into drinking water sources, contaminating them,” said Nirmal, requesting people to report these cases to authorities as soon as possible. Some of the symptoms of the disease, also referred to as avian influenza, are sore and aching throats, high evening fever, and reddening of eyes. Regular medication can keep the disease under control.

“The virus, however, cannot be eradicated once it is transmitted to humans. We can only control the virus from replicating to keep the disease under control,” said Dr Pun.

Nepal has been witnessing bird flu outbreaks since 2009. But most of the time this disease was seen in chicken. This year too chickens raised in places like Bhaktapur and Tarkeshwor Municipality were culled after they tested positive for H5N1 strain.

But on March 17, dead crows were spotted on the premises of Narayanhiti Palace Museum in Durbar Marg and British Council in Lainchaur. The DoLS, on March 21, confirmed that the dead crows were infected with the H5N1 strain of virus. “Crows are very vulnerable to the disease and die within a day of being infected,” said Nirmal, adding, “The outbreak is now under control.”


A version of this article appears in print on April 08, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

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