Coronavirus – Disease, Medical Sciences Involved & Preventive Measures

Does H5N1 pose a threat for humans? | Explained


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Concept of ‘One Health’

Mains level: How is Kerala using it to limit the spread of avian influenza?

Why in the news?

The highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1’s spread to cattle and first human cases in U.S. dairy workers heighten fears of wider human transmission.

Can the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 strain spread from cattle to humans?

  • Recent Infections: Three cases of human infection in dairy farm workers were reported in the U.S., indicating the potential for the virus to spread from cattle to humans.
  • Transmission: The virus appears to spread to humans who are in close interaction with infected birds or animals without adequate personal protection.
  • Current Risk Level: Scientists note that the virus currently lacks changes that would make it better adapted to human-to-human transmission, keeping the risk to human health low. However, the potential for the virus to rapidly evolve remains a concern.

What is the strategy to identify and contain the spread of the virus?

  • Surveillance in Kerala: Kerala has implemented a community-based disease surveillance network involving 2.5 lakh volunteers trained in the ‘One Health’ concept across four districts: Alappuzha, Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, and Idukki.
  • Early Warning System: These volunteers report any unusual events or deaths of animals/birds in their locality, allowing for early warning and prompt preventive or control measures.
  • Global Coordination: There is a call for a robust and coordinated response to H5N1, as emphasized in a recent editorial by The Lancet.

What is the concept of ‘One Health’ 

  • ‘One Health’ Concept: ‘One Health’ is an approach that recognizes the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment, emphasizing the need for collaborative efforts across different sectors to achieve optimal health outcomes.

How is Kerala using it to limit the spread of avian influenza?

  • Implementation of the ‘One Health’ concept in Kerala: Kerala has operationalized the ‘One Health’ concept through the World Bank-aided ‘Rebuild Kerala’ project. This involves a community-based disease surveillance network where volunteers are trained to monitor and report on animal and bird health, ensuring early detection and response to potential outbreaks.
  • Other Operational Measures: The state has taken proactive steps beyond the conceptual framework of ‘One Health’ by establishing an on-ground, volunteer-driven network for disease monitoring and control.

Way forward:

  • Strengthen Global Surveillance and Collaboration: Enhance international cooperation for surveillance, data sharing, and rapid response mechanisms to monitor and control the spread of H5N1, leveraging the ‘One Health’ approach for coordinated action across human, animal, and environmental health sectors.
  • Implement Rigorous Biosecurity and Safety Protocols: Ensure strict biosecurity measures and personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers in close contact with animals, particularly in high-risk areas, to prevent zoonotic transmission and reduce the potential for human infections.

Mains PYQ: 

Q The public health system has limitations in providing universal health coverage. Do you think that the private sector can help in bridging the gap? What other viable alternatives do you suggest? (UPSC IAS/2015)

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