WHO confirms rare human case of bird flu infection in India

WHO confirms rare human case of bird flu infection in India

India has found its first case of a human infected with bird flu in five years, according to the World Health Organization.

The “rare” infection by the avian influenza H9N2 virus was detected in a child in the state of West Bengal, the global health agency said on Tuesday.

This is the second case of a human infected with bird flu that India has notified WHO about. The first was in 2019.

The child in West Bengal was admitted to the paediatric intensive care unit of a local hospital with persistent severe respiratory issues, high fever and abdominal cramps in February, and discharged three months later.

“The child has recovered and was discharged from hospital,” WHO said.

“There were no known persons reporting symptoms of respiratory illness in the family, the neighbourhood or among healthcare workers at health facilities attended by the case at the time of reporting.”

The UN agency, however, cautioned that “further sporadic human cases could occur as this virus is one of the most prevalent avian influenza viruses circulating in poultry in different regions”.

The four-year-old reportedly had “exposure to poultry at home and in the surroundings”.

Bird flu is transmitted to humans primarily through direct contact with infected animals or through indirect contact with contaminated environments, the health agency said.

“Depending on the original host, influenza A viruses can be classified as avian influenza, swine influenza, or other types of animal influenza viruses.”

Avian influenza virus in humans generally causes mild upper respiratory tract infection but can also lead to severe diseases and even death, according to WHO.

“Conjunctivitis, gastrointestinal symptoms, encephalitis and encephalopathy have also been reported.”

The UN agency recently confirmed that a Mexican man died after getting infected by a strain of bird flu called H5N2 that had never been found in a human before.

The health agency advised that “the public should avoid unprotected contact with live poultry, high-risk environments such as live animal markets or farms, and surfaces that might be contaminated by poultry droppings”.