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11-year-old boy from Gurgaon dies of bird flu at Delhi’s AIIMS, epidemiological probe underway

An 11-year-old boy died of the H5N1 avian influenza on July 12 while undergoing treatment at AIIMS Delhi, making it India’s first recorded case of human death due to bird flu

Written by Sukrita Baruah , Varinder Bhatia | Chandigarh, New Delhi |
Updated: July 22, 2021 11:01:28 am
Avian influenza is a highly contagious viral disease caused by Influenza Type A viruses which generally affects poultry such as chickens and turkeys. It does not spread easily to humans. (Representational image)

An 11-year-old boy from Gurgaon died of H5N1 avian influenza or bird flu Tuesday while being treated at the AIIMS, Delhi.

An AIIMS official stated that the boy had been admitted to the hospital on July 2, adding that he died Tuesday. The official said that AIIMS staffers who came in contact with the patient are all under isolation.

The State Surveillance Unit of the Integrated Disease Surveillance Project (IDSP) under the Union Ministry of Health too has initiated an epidemiological probe and put close contacts of the patient under surveillance to watch out for symptoms.

On July 21, a total of 5,750 persons were surveyed in Gurgaon, while 25 poultry farms were surveyed by the health workers and Haryana’s department of animal husbandry.

“There is no suspected case of bird flu found in the area. All the health workers are directed to enhance surveillance in the area of 10 km,” a report sent by District Surveillance Officer, Gurgaon to State Surveillance Unit mentioned.

In the initial report sent by District Surveillance Officer (IDSP), Gurgaon, to State Surveillance Unit, Panchkula, on July 18 about the infected child, it was mentioned that “as per the history given by the mother, child had no direct contact with any poultry animals….At present, his brother, his parents and grandparents are doing well and have no symptoms of the said disease. His grandmother (mother’s side) has run a meat shop in fish market. House-to-house case survey by team of doctors and health workers in the area is being carried out. Health talks are also being done in the area. There is no suspected case of bird flu found in the area….Team of department of animal husbandry also surveyed the area and did not find any death of birds”.

A release issued by the PIB Tuesday said: “The first human case of H5N1 has been found in a male child from Gurgaon. The male child was diagnosed with AML (acute myeloid leukemia) in paediatrics department, AIIMS, Delhi in June. He developed symptoms of fever, cough, coryza, and breathing difficulty, soon after induction therapy for AML. He was diagnosed as AML with febrile neutropenia with pneumonia and shock, which progressed to ARDS. He was admitted to AIIMS, New Delhi, on July 2, 2021. The boy suffered from multi-organ dysfunction and died.”
While pointing out that “whole genome sequencing and virus isolation is under process” in the case, the release said: “The NCDC, Delhi received information on Friday July 16, 2021 from AIIMS, Delhi along with a lab report from NIV, Pune. The information was communicated to the IDSP State Surveillance Unit (SSU), Haryana to initiate an epidemiological investigation into the case. The matter was also reported to the Animal Husbandry Department. A team from NCDC composed of epidemiologists & microbiologists was constituted and the team immediately visited AIIMS, New Delhi and Gurgaon for undertaking an epidemiological assessment. The state health department and the animal husbandry department officials are also involved in the investigation.”

It concluded: “Based on the available information, the team of doctors and nurses treating the patient are being monitored since July 16, 2021 for development of any influenza like illness with no one reported symptomatic till date. Contact tracing was undertaken and family members, close contacts and health care workers are under close surveillance. None of the close contacts have any symptoms. Contact tracing, an active search for any symptomatic case has been carried out in the hospital and area where the case resided. There are no symptomatic individuals in the area at present.”

Avian influenza is a highly contagious viral disease caused by Influenza Type A viruses which generally affects poultry such as chickens and turkeys. It does not spread easily to humans.

People who have come in close contact with infected birds, dead or alive, can contract the H5N1 virus, but according to the WHO, it does not usually spread from person to person. However, it can be deadly when it does infect humans, with a mortality rate of almost 60 per cent.

The WHO has also pointed out that there is no evidence of the virus spreading through properly prepared and cooked poultry as the virus is sensitive to heat and dies in cooking temperatures. Earlier this year, in January, the deaths of a large numbers of birds in various parts of the country had raised bird flu alarm and the virus was detected in birds in Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Haryana and Maharashtra.

Samples from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Kerala had tested positive for the A (H5N8) strain of the virus, while samples from Himachal Pradesh had tested positive for A (H5N1).

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