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Humans not at risk of being infected by avian influenza: Experts

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New Delhi, Feb 23 (UNI) With contradictory reports on birdflu creating panic across the country, experts today assured people that avian influenza posed no threat to humans if ''simple precautions'' were taken.

They asserted that infection to humans, at present, was restricted through close contact with infected poultry and direct contact with feathers, saliva or the droppings of the birds and other wildlife must be avoided.

Allaying fears, the experts said people who were handling infected poultry without taking necessary precautions were the only group at risk of exposure.

They strongly advised people to wash hands properly with good quality detergent and hot water on accidental contact.

So far no case of human infection was reported from Maharashtra's Navapur area, where the birdflu was confirmed, and the government was prepared to face any situation if the need arose, they asserted.

Providing an insight on avian influenza at a panel discussion, organised by the Indian Medical Association (IMA), were Delhi Government Animal Husbandry Director Dr K L Khurana, MCD Medical Health Officer Dr K N Tewari, Microbiologist Dr Narendra Saini and IMA Secretary General Dr Vinay Aggarwal.

Dr Khurana appealed people not to panic as the human-to-human infection was rare.

''So far, worldwide the virus has claimed around 150 million birds and more than 90 human lives since its outbreak in 2003...

there is no need to panic,'' he added.

''The virus is very sensitive. It cannot survive in the hot conditions in India.... It is alive at zero degrees celsius.Its incubation time is few hours to three days,'' he added.

However, he sounded a note of caution, saying the H5N1 strain of virus was highly pathogenic and spreads very rapidly through poultry and the mortality rate could approach 100 per cent within 48 hours.

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