Avian influenza or Bird
A Fact sheet
(In other pages - How Homeopathy was effective
and Some reasonable doubts and questions about the false
Clinical picture in birds
Spread of bird flu
Treatment available for birds
Control measures in birds
Clinical picture in
What to do and not to do?
Why there is so much
concern and why there is no need to panic?
The real panic!
Technical aspects of Avian
Bird flue or Avian Influenza is the latest threat to the peaceful existence to
human beings in this earth. As if the other existing threats are not enough!
But bird flue attains significance because all over the media is on a gold rush
to harvest maximum fear factor from the public. It seems. The hands of some
interested drug mafias may also be considered lurking in the back ground. It is
to be particularly significant to note that the drug industry is the number one
along with arms in reaping money.
So here are the latest and well proven facts about bird flue for the information
of public as well as professionals. (see also some reasonable
doubts and questions).
Avian influenza, or "bird flu", is a contagious disease of animals
especially birds, caused by particular strains of influenza viruses. They
normally infect only birds and, less commonly, pigs. While all bird species are
thought to be susceptible to infection, domestic poultry flocks like chickens,
ducks, geese and turkeys are especially vulnerable to infections that can
rapidly reach epidemic proportions. Another interesting factor is that
Wild birds worldwide carry the viruses in their
intestines, but usually do not get sick from them and it causes symptoms and
death in domesticated birds only. And when they start affecting the said
domesticated birds it is rapidly contagious and very often highly fatal. (For
more technical details click here)
Clinical picture in birds
The disease in birds has
two forms. The first causes only mild illness, expressed only as ruffled
feathers or reduced egg production. A second form is the dangerous one, known as
“highly pathogenic avian influenza”. This variety is extremely contagious in
birds and rapidly fatal, with a mortality approaching 100%. Birds can even die
on the same day of symptoms first appear.
Infected poultry may show the following symptoms and
Sudden death or death after any of the following signs.
There is a general lack of energy and appetite.
Some times swelling of the head, eyelids, combs, wattles and legs is seen.
The wattles and combs are discoloured Purple.
There will be nasal discharge, with or without coughing and sneezing
Most of the times diarrhoea is also seen.
Spread of bird flu
As mentioned the spread is mostly from birds to birds. Infected birds shed flu
virus in their saliva, nasal secretions, and feces. When susceptible birds have
contact with contaminated excretions or surfaces that are contaminated with
excretions they become infected. Humans get infected when they are in intimate
contact with infected poultry or contaminated surfaces with virus.
Human to human spread (that is spread from one infected human to another one
through sneezing coughing or direct contact etc.) is considered not possible at
present. However there is a suspected case of human to human infection in a
family in Thailand but the case stopped spreading in the first generation
itself. That is the one who got it from an infected human did not cause another
second generation of human infections.
Treatment available for birds
There are two aspects to this. One there are no rapid, massive and effective
treatment modalities in conventional medicine for birds. Second far more
importance is given to the spread of illness to human that birds are considered
better controlled (for how see below) than treated. (for available alternatives
Control measures in birds
First and most important control measure is rapid destruction (called
“culling” or “stamping out”) of all infected or exposed birds and proper
disposal of carcasses. Some times millions of birds are extinguished like this.
Proper quarantining and rigorous disinfection of farms are also necessary.
Movement restrictions for live poultry as in trade are another important control
measure. This is implied both within and between countries to be effective.
Vaccination of chicks is also effective.
heating (56 degrees C for 3 hours or 60 degrees C for 30 minutes) is best.
Common disinfectants, such as formalin and iodine compounds are also found to be
The virus survive, at
cool temperatures like in contaminated manure for at least three months. It can
survive for up to four days in water, at 22 degrees C and more than 30 days at 0
degrees C. The virulence of the highly pathogenic form is much high that a
single gram of contaminated manure can contain enough virus to infect 1 million
here for available treatment for birds)
Clinical picture in infected humans
The actual out
breaks of human infection in much less. And from the available data it appears
that patients developed symptoms ranged from typical flu-like symptoms such as
fever, sore throat, cough, muscle aches, eye infections, and, in several of the
fatal cases, severe respiratory distress secondary to viral pneumonia and other
Even though it looks
like a common influenza the effectiveness of conventional treatment is in doubt
due to several factors. Common antiviral drugs even though clinically effective
against influenza A virus strains in otherwise healthy adults and children, but
have some limitations in avail flu. Also they have some undesirable side effects
and some of these are much expensive and supplies are limited.
even though experience with influenza vaccines is considerable, it is to be
noted that vaccine composition changes each year to match changes in circulating
virus due to antigenic drift. And at least four months is needed to produce a
new vaccine, in significant quantities, capable of conferring protection against
a new virus subtype.
Specific diagnostic tests are those for diagnosing all influenza strains of
animals and humans. These are rapid and reliable
It is evident that conventional treatment is not much
effective (click here to know why) in flu
epidemics or pandemics. Also click this link to know more details of 'how
homeopathy was effective in earlier Flu Pandemics'.
Homeopathy offers a much effective treatment against viral infections
in general. Also it
offers complete cure in almost all infectious illness if there is not much
destruction of tissues that is in cases other than advanced pathological
changes. It is of greater importance that as homeopathy can start effective
treatment based on symptomatology one can start the damage control much earlier
before actual diagnosis of bird flu. The only problem being many a cases of
possible bird flue (or any other grave or answerless illness) will be completely
cured without there is a chance for proper diagnosis and recording the credit to
the account of homeopathy. But no good homeopath needs credit but relief to
Another important help
homeopathy can do is in the treatment of birds. It
is well proven in many countries that veterinary homeopathy is much more
effective. A similar form of bird flue is treated very well by homeopathic
remedies in India for so long. Ayurveda also offers good effective treatment for
both avian and human variety of flu. Similar to homeopathy highly effective
simple Ayurvedic preparation are in use for bird flu in poultry in India for
The important drugs in
homeopathy that are indicated in bird flu include the following
Arnica, Arsenicum alb.,
Belladonna, Bryonia, Eupatorium per., Hepar sulph.,
Gelsemium, Kali bich., Mercurius, Nux vomica,
Pulsatilla, Phosphorus, Rhustox,
Note that these drugs are given in the alphabetical order only. Not in their order
of importance or current prevalence. The actual drug prescribed and the potency
should be based on individual cases and under the strict supervision of an
experienced and qualified homeopath. Also note that homeopathic medicines
will not produce any effect if the selection is wrong and the amount of effect
may vary with the degree of inaccuracy in the selection of potency and dose. So
it is repeated that any
treatment must be supervised by an experienced and qualified homeopath.
It will be reassuring to know
that in each season millions of people benefit from homeopathic
remedies for influenza, all over the world. And the mortality rate is anything below 0.5% (if at all
there is any)! Besides if you are taking homeopathic remedies for flu you will
experience a faster cure as below, saving millions of days of manpower in
addition to money and mental tension.
If you take Antipyretic drugs (like Paracetamol) the temperature comes down
within 30 minutes and shot up again after 4-5 hours. This lasts for about three
four days. At the end of which you are free from illness but very tired and will
have a bad stomach too. Under homeopathic medication the temperature loose its
intensity within two/three hours and decrease gradually to baseline within two
days the maximum. On the second/third day you are free from illness and also
fresh almost to pre-flu days!
do and not to do? (Prophylaxis).
For common public
Avoid direct contact with wild and/or domestic birds esp. poultry. Take
particular care in regions where bird flue is reported. Take care to avoid
drinking contaminated water. For this the general precaution of safe food/drink
habits is enough. Those who are on trekking or wild life safari should keep in
mind the contaminated water sources and make provisions for adequate drinking
water with them. For those who have back yard poultry farms proper care should
be taken in keeping the coup and surroundings clean. Special attention should be
paid to disinfect water and feeding pots thoroughly and routinely. Seek advice
of your veterinarian immediately on sighting of any signs of illness in the
birds and act accordingly.
For commercial farmers
Besides the above measures routine large scale disinfection of the farm
is the first step. Proper disposal of droppings and other waste product is also
of much importance. In case of any culling dispose of the carcasses also in
proper manner. Take particular care to identify early signs of infection in
birds and avoid spread to other birds.
For all people
When any symptoms of flu or viral fever is seen in any one please
do not panic. Instead go to your family doctor and get the proper
treatment. If the family doctor is a homeopath it is far better.
Always remember to make sure the treatment is not causing more harm than the
Also note that
it is absolutely safe to consume poultry meat and
eggs provided they are thoroughly cooked. Ordinary pressure
cooking easily destroys the virus. Only handling live affected birds or getting
intimate contact with droppings/saliva/secretions of affected birds can give
rise to the illness.
is so much concern and why there is no need to panic?
The recent heightened concern is for many reasons. Most – but not all – of
the major outbreaks recently reported in Asia have been caused by the highly
pathogenic H5N1 strain. It is strongly believed that this strain has a unique
capacity to jump the species barrier and cause severe disease, with high
mortality, in humans and may cause a pandemic as explained below.
It is known that avian and human influenza viruses can exchange genes when a
person is simultaneously infected with viruses from both species. By this
process of gene swapping inside the human body a completely new subtype of the
influenza virus can be developed. This mutant virus has the advantage that
humans would not have the natural immunity against them as they are entirely
new. Also existing vaccines too would not be effective against a completely new
influenza virus as they are changed each year to match the present circulating
strains as said above. Finally when the new virus contains sufficient human
genes making it capable to transmit directly from one person to another (rather
than from birds to humans) the conditions for the start of a new influenza
pandemic will be created.
(To know how
exactly a super virus is born click here). This assumption attains significance in the light of
the great influenza pandemic of 1918–1919, when a completely new influenza virus
subtype emerged and spread around the globe, in around 4 to 6 months. Several
waves of infection occurred over 2 years, killing an estimated 40–50 million
persons. Here an interesting and not much publicized fact is there that
homeopathy was much effective in that pandemic.
But as said these are
all only possibilities and not yet realised. And like the repeated ‘dooms days’
predicted by many cults who worship ‘end of the world’ none materialized so far.
See that from December 2003
till date only 176 confirmed cases of human bird flu
infections are reported and out of them only 97 causalities are there. Also note
that despite the estimated and predicted toll of millions of death the dreaded SARS caused only a thousand deaths in all!
Another influenza epidemic predicted so much casualty
back also failed to deliver that 'promise'!
This also dose not mean
that we can altogether neglect this threat. But simple precautionary measures in
the poultry industry itself can curb this to the reasonable rate as happens all
the time in the poultry industry. Now the real panic
should be about one thing; that is if any such pandemic
brake out the current vaccination will not be effective against it?!
(click here to know why?)
Another very important reason for the increased alarm is that in viral
infections especially in those of epidemic and pandemic proportions the rate of
fatality is high whether it is a new subtype or an old one. On closer
examination it will become clear that this is in fact due to
selection of drugs and treatment mode. As for example it is well proven
that ‘Paracetamol’ the most freely used antipyretic can cause sever platelet
depletion amounting to death. Ironically that is the single most used agent in
any type of flu world over. Another culprit is ‘Antibiotics’ which can cause
serious liver and kidney damage if used indiscriminately. These are also freely
employed in epidemics and pandemics of flu. Also to be noted is the fact that in
any such situations the panic stricken public consumes heavy doses and dangerous
amounts of these drugs as many of them are available as OTC (legally or not) in
many parts of the world. Interestingly the author has witnessed requests by
learned GPs containing two different brands of Paracetamol preparations in high
doses and two different types of Antibiotics in a single prescription! This may
also happen due to the high pressure GPs are submitted when flocks of public is
crowding OPDs with simple fever and some of them are falling dead. But sadly
this practice will only add to the fatality number and there by the panic index
of public. Another bad thing is that the proper procedure ‘the Antiviral’ agents
are costly, have many side effects and not always available in massive
quantities. (for an
available alternative click here)
Technical aspects of Avian Influenza
There are many
types of Flu viruses. Of which type A is the cause for avian flue. Even among
this there are several different subtypes depending upon their hemagglutinin [H]
and neuraminidase [N] proteins contents. There are 16 different H subtypes and 9
different N subtypes of flu A viruses. So, many different combinations of these
are possible and each combination is a different subtype. Like H1N1, H5N3 etc.)
Even though all subtypes of flu A viruses can be found in birds the “bird flu”
in question is caused by only three subtypes as regards H protein i.e. H5, H9
and H7, and out of them H5 with N1 is the most dangerous posing the threat now
(H5N1 subtype). Even that does not cause a 'pandemic' because it cannot cause
infection from human to human. For this a peculiar type of "super virus" need to
be born by a series of cross infections which are extremely unlikely. (To know
how exactly a super
virus is born click here)
The spread within and between countries
Farm to farm spread within a country is much easy as large amounts of virus
are secreted in bird droppings, contaminating dust and soil. Airborne virus can
spread the disease from bird to bird. Besides contaminated equipment, vehicles,
feed, cages or clothing – especially shoes – can carry the virus from farm to
farm. The virus can also be carried on the feet and bodies of animals, such as
rodents, which act as “mechanical vectors” for spreading the disease. Limited
evidence suggests that flies can also act as mechanical vectors.
Droppings from infected wild
birds may introduce the virus into both commercial and backyard poultry flocks.
The risk that infection will be transmitted from wild birds to domestic poultry
is greatest where domestic birds roam freely, share a water supply with wild
birds, or use a water supply that might become contaminated by droppings from
infected wild-bird carriers. Also in “wet” markets, where live birds are sold
under crowded and sometimes unsanitary conditions, can be another source of
The disease can spread from country to country through international trade in
live poultry. Another important link is migratory birds, including wild
waterfowl, sea birds, and shore birds. They can carry the virus for long
distances and have, in the past, been implicated in the international spread of
highly pathogenic avian influenza.
Bird flu is a common illness seen for ages in wild and domestic birds. It
attains massive proportions and occasionally may cause human infection due to
carelessness from the part of humans itself. Spreading frightening theories and
the panic stricken public resorting to extreme measures are the main cause of
fatality in almost all cases. With a little common sense and care we can prevent
another pandemic. As learned men we owe at least that much to the humanity.
by Dr. Abdul Gafar
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