An eleven-year-old boy’s death highlights a new risk for the world’s second-most populous nation battling the coronavirus pandemic.
India reported its first case of human death due to bird flu after a child succumbed to the disease.
The 11-year-old who died at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi was infected with avian influenza, the first human case of bird flu in the country, according to the health ministry. Local media including Hindustan Times reported that the boy was infected with the H5N1 strain.
Avian influenza is an illness that occurs mainly in birds like chickens and turkeys. While the H5N1 virus does not infect humans easily, the consequences for public health could be very serious if it becomes easily transmissible from person to person. Infection in humans can cause severe disease and has a high mortality rate, according to the World Health Organization.
The boy from Haryana, a state in northern India, developed symptoms of fever, cough and breathing difficulty, and was admitted to the AIIMS public hospital on July 2. His samples tested negative for Covid-19 but positive for avian influenza. He suffered from multi-organ dysfunction and died on July 12.
Doctors and nurses who treated the patient have been monitored since July 16 and no one has reported symptoms, the health ministry said. Contact tracing was undertaken and family members, close contacts and health care workers are under close surveillance. None have any symptoms.
Earlier this year, thousands of wild birds were found dead and tens of thousands of poultry were culled after a massive wave of bird flu cases swept several states in India. Several infections were from a different strain, H5N8, although the nation is considered to be endemic for the H5N1 virus in poultry.
(Updates with details from health ministry throughout)