Bird flu outbreak in Kerala: What is H5N1? Everything you need to know about symptoms and precautions

Following reports of an outbreak of bird flu in two panchayats in Alappuzha, Health Minister Veena George has directed the health department director to take appropriate action under the Kerala Public Health Act, 2023.

Panchayat level committees have been tasked to assess the situation and implement essential measures. This directive applies to all panchayats in Alappuzha and nearby areas under observation, with instructions to revive ‘One Health’ committees in the panchayats.

The Health Minister stressed that although bird flu has not yet affected people in the state, it is important to take precautionary measures to prevent its spread, according to a report by The times of India.

Confirmation of bird flu came from ducks in Ward 1 of Edathva Grama Panchayat and Ward 3 of Cheruthana Grama Panchayat, after tests conducted on symptomatic duck samples sent to a laboratory in Bhopal. District officials confirmed the presence of bird flu (H5N1).

On Friday, the state’s Animal Husbandry Department (AHD) carried out bird culling operations in the affected areas of Kuttanad in Alappuzha.

From The Hindu According to the report, around 21,000 ducks will be culled in Edathua and Cheruthana, the epicenters of the bird flu outbreak. In addition, all domestic birds within a one kilometer radius of the outbreak zones will be culled.

Tamil Nadu sets up 12 border check posts

To contain the spread of bird flu from Alappuzha, vigil has been intensified at 12 border check posts in neighboring Tamil Nadu. These posts, located in places like Anaikatti, Walayar and Velandavazham, are equipped with a veterinarian and support staff. Vehicles carrying poultry products are being stopped and turned back, while disinfection measures are being applied to vehicles entering from Kerala.

According to the report, 432 samples from poultry farms were examined and showed no signs of bird flu.

What is H5N1?

According to Living ScienceH5N1, also called bird flu, is a highly pathogenic subtype of bird flu A, known to cause serious illness in poultry and occasionally transmitted to humans and other mammals. Although it mainly affects birds, it can have fatal consequences in non-avian species, including humans. The virus was first identified in China in 1996, with notable fatalities during outbreaks, including one in Hong Kong in 1997.

Bird flu spreads mainly through contact with infected animal fluids such as saliva, respiratory droplets or feces. It can infect the upper respiratory tract, lungs and other parts of the body, potentially leading to serious illness. However, properly cooked poultry and eggs pose no risk of transmission, and all infected flocks are immediately removed from the human food supply.


In humans, the symptoms of an H5N1 infection can vary widely. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these can range from no symptoms or mild illness, such as redness of the eyes (conjunctivitis) or mild flu-like upper respiratory symptoms, to severe cases requiring hospitalization.

Common symptoms include fever (temperature of 37.8ºC or higher), coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headache, fatigue and difficulty breathing. Less common symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, or seizures. It is important to note that fever does not always have to be present.


Diagnosing avian flu virus infection in humans requires laboratory tests because clinical signs and symptoms alone are not sufficient. Typically, a swab is taken from the upper respiratory tract (nose or throat) of the affected individual for testing. The accuracy of testing is greater when the swab is obtained during the first days of illness.

In severe cases, collecting and testing samples from the lower respiratory tract can aid in the diagnosis. However, in some cases where patients have recovered or are no longer seriously ill, detecting the avian flu virus in a specimen can pose a challenge.


During an interview with Hindustani timesDr. Rahul Agarwal, consultant in internal medicine at CARE Hospitals in Hitech City Hyderabad, explained that treatment for bird flu usually consists of antiviral drugs such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu). These medications can help reduce the severity and duration of symptoms. Dr. However, Agarwal cautioned that the effectiveness of these drugs may differ depending on the specific strain of the virus and the overall health status of the individual.

“In addition to antiviral medications, supportive care is often necessary, especially for individuals with severe symptoms. This may include rest, hydration and, in some cases, hospitalization for close monitoring and treatment,” added Dr. Agarwal added.

Precautionary measures

Dr. Gupta also shared important tips for flu prevention and underlined the importance of various measures. These include avoiding contact with sick birds, maintaining good hygiene practices such as frequent hand washing, and ensuring poultry products are thoroughly cooked. Additionally, wearing protective clothing while handling sick birds or cleaning infected areas can provide an extra layer of defense, effectively lowering the risk of transmission.

“Although bird flu outbreaks can be worrying, the risk of human-to-human transmission is generally low. However, health authorities are closely monitoring these outbreaks to prevent the spread of the virus and protect public health. “By staying informed and following the guidelines of health officials, the risks associated with bird flu can be reduced,” he added.

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