H5N1 virus/Bird Flue

  • IASbaba
  • February 15, 2023
  • 0
Science and Technology
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Context: Monitoring the evolution of the shapeshifting H5N1 virus can add to the preparedness against another potential pandemic.

About H5N1 virus/Bird Flue:

  • Bird flu or avian influenza is a disease caused by avian influenza Type A viruses found naturally in wild birds worldwide.
  • Avian influenza, or bird flu, is a highly contagious viral infection that primarily affects birds.
  • Infrequently, the virus can infect mammals from birds, a phenomenon called spillover, and rarely can spread between mammals.
  • This subtype has caused a number of human infections through close contact with infected birds or contaminated environments, and is often fatal.
  • Recent reports of H5N1 spread between mammals raise concerns about its potential to cause a human pandemic if it were to spill over and become transmissible among humans.
  • It can infect domestic poultry including chickens, ducks, turkeys, pigs, cats, and tigers.

Types of avian influenza:

  • Avian Influenza type A viruses are classified based on two proteins on their surfaces – Hemagglutinin(HA) and Neuraminidase(NA).
  • There are about 18 HA subtypes and 11 NA subtypes.
  • Several combinations of these two proteins are possible e.g., H5N1, H7N2, H9N6, H17N10, etc.


  • A virus infections in humans have ranged from mild to severe influenza-like illness.
  • Fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting etc.
  • Severe respiratory illness (e.g., shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, pneumonia, acute respiratory distress, viral pneumonia, respiratory failure).
  • Neurologic changes (altered mental status, seizures).

Prevention of spillovers:

  • Preventing H5N1 spillovers and outbreaks requires a combination of measures including:
    • vaccination of poultry,
    • safe disposal of dead birds,
    • wearing personal protective equipment when handling birds,
    • quarantine and culling of affected animals, and
    • improved surveillance and monitoring of H5N1 in birds and other animals.
    • molecular surveillance of H5N1
  • Genome sequencing can be employed to monitor the emergence of new subtypes, and keep a close watch on mutations and virulence factors that may increase the ability to infect humans.

Source: The Hindu

Previous Year Questions

Q.1) In the context of vaccines manufactured to prevent COVID-19 pandemic, consider the following statements:

  1. The Serum Institute of India produced COVID-19 vaccine named Covishield using mRNA platform.
  2. Sputnik V vaccine is manufactured using vector based platform.
  3. COVAXIN is an inactivated pathogen based vaccine.

Which of the statements given above are correct? (2022)

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

Q.2) Consider the following:

  1. Bacteria
  2. Fungi
  3. Virus

Which of the above can be cultured in an artificial/ synthetic medium? (2021)

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. 1,2 and 3


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