India reported its first bird flu death of this year when a 12-year-old boy, undergoing treatment for H5N1 Avian influenza, passed away at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). The incident took place on Tuesday (July 20) and the boy died at AIIM’s pediatric department.
“The 12-year-old boy being treated at the hospital’s D5 ward was found to be infected with H5N1 (Avian flu) after the diagnosis. The boy was suffering from leukemia and pneumonia. He was under treatment and admitted to the ICU of AIIMS in Delhi,” AIIMS officials said. “All staff who had exposure to him should monitor themselves for any signs and symptoms of flu and should report if any are present,” AIIMS officials said.
While undergoing treatment, tests for COVID-19 and influenza were conducted. “His samples tested negative for COVID-19. It came out positive for influenza but was non-typable. It was sent to National Institute of Virology, Pune, where they confirmed it to be positive for H5N1 avian influenza,” a source said. Details of the case have been conveyed to the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and their team has started contact tracing and to see if there are any more cases with similar symptoms with whom the child has come in contact, the source said.
What is bird flu?
H5N1 stands for Highly Pathogenic Asian Avian Influenza (H5N1) Virus. Avian influenza is a strain of the influenza virus that primarily infects birds, but can also infect humans. This type of flu is most often contracted by contact with sick birds. It can also be passed from person to person. According to WHO, human cases of H5N1 are rare but if infected, the mortality rate is about 60%.
Almost all cases of H5N1 infection in people have been associated with close contact with infected live or dead birds, or H5N1-contaminated environments. Infected birds shed avian influenza virus in their saliva, mucous and feces. Human infections with bird flu viruses can happen when enough virus gets into a person’s eyes, nose or mouth, or is inhaled.