Viral TikTok star Emmanuel has reportedly fallen sick with avian influenza. It has been affecting poultry and wild birds in the US since January 2022.


About ‘Avian Influenza’

  • Avian influenza is a disease caused by an influenza A virus, affecting birds across many species.
  • It can have significant consequences for the poultry industry, due to its potential impact on bird health, production and even international trade.
  • Although avian influenza does not usually infect people, it is considered a zoonotic virus. That means it can be transmitted to humans through contact with infected birds, and sporadic cases have been seen when outbreaks happen in poultry.
  • Some avian influenza viruses are more pathogenic than others.
    • Pathogenic means disease-causing, so if highly pathogenic avian influenza gets into a poultry farm, it can cause sudden and significant mortality.
  • Symptoms — Avian influenza infections in humans can cause a range of clinical symptoms, from mild upper respiratory symptoms to severe pneumonia.
  • Some strains of avian influenza, such as highly pathogenic H5N1 and H7N9, can cause significant disease in humans, and in some instances even death.
  • Treatment — Recommended standard treatment for humans is with antiviral drugs, and will depend on individual circumstances and severity of the symptoms.


Classification of Influenza

  • The influenza virus, which causes illness, is classified by WHO into four types: A, B, C, and D.
  • According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only the influenza A and B viruses are known to cause epidemics.
  • The C type virus usually causes mild respiratory illness, while the D type virus typically affects cattle and is not known to infect humans.
  • Only the influenza A virus is divided into subtypes and the subtype is based on two proteins on the surface of the virus, hemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N).


Impact of influenza

  • Humans can be infected with avian, swine and other zoonotic influenza viruses, such as —
    • Avian influenza virus subtypes A (H5N1), A (H7N9), and A (H9N2)
    • Swine influenza virus subtypes A (H1N1), A (H1N2) and A (H3N2)
  • According to the WHO, influenza is known to affect 5-10% of adults and 20-30% of children across the world every year.