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WHO Confirms Human case of Bird Flu in India

The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed a human case of bird flu in India, with the H9N2 virus detected in a four-year-old child from West Bengal. This is the second recorded instance of avian influenza A (H9N2) in a human in India, with the first case reported in 2019.

The child has made a recovery and has been discharged from the hospital. The WHO received notification from the International Health Regulations (IHR) National Focal Point (NFP) for India regarding this case. The health body confirmed the presence of the H9N2 virus in a press release.

The child, who was previously diagnosed with hyperreactive airway disease, initially showed symptoms of fever and abdominal pain on January 26, 2024. The situation worsened, and the child developed seizures on January 29, leading to hospitalization in a pediatric intensive care unit (ICU) due to severe respiratory distress, high-grade fever, and abdominal cramps.

Initial tests indicated the presence of influenza B and adenovirus. The child was discharged on February 28 but experienced a recurrence of severe respiratory distress, necessitating another hospital admission on March 3, where they were intubated and treated in the ICU.

Subsequent testing of the child’s nasopharyngeal swab by the Kolkata Virus Research and Diagnostic Laboratory revealed influenza A (not sub-typed) and rhinovirus. On April 26, the sample was further sub-typed and confirmed as influenza A(H9N2) through a real-time polymerase chain reaction.

The WHO noted that the child had exposure to poultry at home and in the surrounding areas. Importantly, no other individuals in the family, neighborhood, or healthcare facilities reported symptoms of respiratory illness during this period.

The WHO has cautioned that sporadic human cases of H9N2 could continue to occur, given that it is one of the most prevalent avian influenza viruses in poultry worldwide. Animal influenza viruses typically infect animals but can occasionally infect humans through direct or indirect contact with contaminated environments.

To address these challenges, the WHO is providing ongoing support to the Indian government. This includes offering technical advice, risk assessment updates, and assistance in updating contingency plans for both human and animal health sectors in accordance with global guidelines.

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