H5N1 bird flu

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Source: This article on the H5N1 bird flu is based on “How the H5N1 bird flu threatens the very existence of birds and mammals” which was published in “The Indian Express” on 29th March 2024.

Why in news?

It has been observed that since 2020 H5N1 has been spreading across the globe posing an existential threat to birds and wildlife.

H5N1 bird flu

1. About: Bird flu, also known as avian flu, refers to an infectious viral illness that mainly infects and spreads among poultry and some wild birds.

2. Origin: The virus was first reported in geese in China in 1996. Since then, outbreaks have been reported periodically across the world. India reported the presence of the virus in Nandurbar, Maharashtra, in 2006.

3. Factor behind outbreak: The exact factors behind the large outbreaks of the bird flu are still largely unknown. Some scientists, however, suggest that one reason could be climate change.

4. Origin of new version of virus:  The new version of H5N1 first emerged in Europe in 2020 and then rapidly reached Europe, Africa, and Asia. The currently circulating type of H5N1 is one such highly pathogenic flu virus.

By late 2021, it had spread to North America and in the fall of 2022, it appeared in South America. In February 2024, the virus stormed through mainland Antarctica.

6. Spread among birds: Along with affecting farm birds, the virus has also significantly harmed wild birds, particularly those species that are already facing the threat of extinction.

7. Spread among mammals: The spread of the virus among mammals, including foxes, pumas, skunks, and both black and brown bears in North America and farmed minks in Europe, raises concerns due to the potential for increased virulence and cross-species transmission in overcrowded conditions.

The marine mammals such as sea lions and dolphins’ seals, elephant seals have also been killed due to virus.

9. Spread among humans: Human bird flu infections are rare. It typically occurs in individuals exposed to large numbers of infected birds at poultry farms, indicating a higher risk with increased viral exposure.

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