Facts and prevention methods for Avian influenza

Dr. Erlina
Dr. dr. Erlina Burhan, Sp.P(K), MSc. (Source: YARSI HOSPITAL)

Jakarta, IO – “Zoonosis” refers to diseases that are spread from animals to humans, and vice versa. They include diseases like rabies, which infect humans from the bites of dogs, cats, and monkeys; leptospirosis, which infect humans from rodent urine; or the avian flu, which is caused by type A or H5N1 influenza virus. The latter, a Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (“HPAI”), infects multiples species, including pigs, horses, and sea mammals. The new strain, which infects through secretions, feces, and close contact with infected fowls, has exploded in the past year. 

On 16 February 2023, no fewer than 240 H5N1 cases among humans were reported in four West Pacific countries, with a case fatality rate of 56%. More confirmed cases were found on 23 February 2023 in Cambodia, wherein patients showed worsening symptoms unto death. In Indonesia, there was an increase in the number of cases among fowls per September and October 2022, specifically in the duck farms in South Kalimantan and the chicken and duck farms in South Sulawesi and West Sulawesi. However, there were no cases of human infection recorded. 

“Globally, 871 cases of avian flu with 485 deaths were recorded in 2003-2023. However, the highest number of deaths occurred in Indonesia at 168. As soon as the Ministry of Health was alerted to the virus on 16 January 2023, we prepared 190 hospitals and 13 referral laboratories to anticipate the disease. We hope that there will be no human infections,” reported dr. Imran Pambudi, MPHM, the Ministry’s Director of the Prevention and Control of Communicable Diseases, in the “The Latest H5N1 Clade: Facts and Prevention” live IG session held on Monday (06/03/2023). 

Separately, Dr. dr. Erlina Burhan, Sp.P(K), M.Sc., Persahabatan Hospital, Jakarta’s lung specialist reminded that strict implementation of health protocols – wearing filter masks, washing hands with soap, and avoiding contact with influenza sufferers can also apply in the prevention of avian flu. “We all need to be wary, but there is no need to panic because we already have clinical treatment procedures for avian flu in place. These procedures include the administration of antiviruses and symptomatic drugs to overcome the symptoms, oxygen therapy for respiratory difficulty, and even a mechanical ventilator to help with respiratory failure,” she declared in the “Alert for the H5NI Avian Flu Disease” webinar on Friday (03/03/2023). 

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Avian flu has the same general symptoms as ordinary influenza: fevers 38 degrees Celsius or higher; listlessness; coughing; throat, muscle, stomach, and/or chest pains; and/or diarrhea. “Go see a doctor if you suffer from -like illness (“ILI”) symptoms within 10 days after having contact with an infected fowl. Isolate yourself until you are proven to be free from avian flu. The patient is confirmed of H5N1 infection if their PCR test comes back positive, and they have a more than 4 times increase in neutralizing antibody titer H5N1 from a convalescing specimen, when compared with that of an acute specimen,” Dr. Erlina said. “And finally, as they are excellent sources of protein, don’t fear to continue consuming fully cooked chickens, ducks, and eggs.” (est)