FAQ Animal Health

Human infection with influenza A(H7N9) virus

What is the new influenza A(H7N9) virus?
The influenza A(H7N9) virus is a member of influenza group of viruses that usually infects birds. It has got recent media attention because of recent human infections due to this virus in parts of China. However, few other H7 viruses are also known to have infected humans previously.

Is it (influenza A H7N9) different from previous influenza A(H1N1) and avian influenza A(H5N1) viruses?
Though all three are influenza A viruses, but they are distinct in their origin. Experts consider the current H7N9 and H5N1 viruses of animal origin. However, H1N1 viruses may be divided into two groups one infecting people and the other infecting animals.

What are the signs of infection with influenza A(H7N9) viruses in humans?
Most of the patients who suffered this infection experienced fever, cough, shortness of breath, etc. and almost all had severe pneumonia.

How many human cases of influenza A(H7N9) virus have been reported?
According to World Health Organization statistics, till 7th April, 2013 a total of 21 cases have been laboratory confirmed with influenza A(H7N9) virus in China, including six deaths, 12 severe cases and three mild cases. 4.

However, during the period between 1996 and 2012, human infections with H7 influenza viruses have been reported in the Netherlands, Italy, Canada, United States of America, Mexico and the United Kingdom.

How do humans contract infection with influenza A(H7N9) virus?
The routes of infection are not clear still. Some persons who suffered from this infection had contact with animals or their environment. The virus has been detected in a pigeon in a market in Shanghai. The possibility of animal-to-human, and person-to-person transmission are being investigated.

How can infection with influenza A(H7N9) virus be prevented?
Though experts are not unanimous on source and routes of infection, it is rational to follow basic hygienic practices.

Can one safely consume meat, say, poultry, pork, beef, etc.?
Eating properly prepared and cooked meat from poultry and game birds is safe. Influenza viruses gets inactivated by temperatures used for cooking ( at least 70°C in all parts— "piping" hot — no "pink" parts).
Nevertheless, diseased animals and animals that have died of diseases should not be eaten
and consumption of raw meat and uncooked blood-based dishes should be strongly discouraged.

Is it safe to go to live markets and farms?
Where human cases have been recorded taking some care while visiting such places will be beneficial.

In areas where no human cases have been recorded, be vigilant about animal illnesses and report any animal illnesses immediately to local authorities.

Are there vaccines or treatment for the influenza A(H7N9) virus?
Unfortunately, till now there is no vaccine for the prevention of influenza A(H7N9) infections. However, international authorities are collaborating to develop a vaccine.
On the other hand, laboratory evidences revealed that influenza A(H7N9) viruses are sensitive to the anti-influenza drugs (oseltamivir and zanamivir). However, currently there is a lack of experience among clinicians with the use of these drugs for the treatment of H7N9 infection.

 Is it prudent to travel to China?
As per WHO guidelines presently there is no need to impose any travel measures with respect to people visiting or leaving China.

Is there any risk from Chinese products?
Currently, there is no scientific evidence of diseases link to any Chinese products. World Health Organization advised against any trade restrictions.

What is rabies?
Rabies is a zoonotic disease (a disease that is transmitted from animals to humans) that is caused by a virus.
The disease is almost always fatal if not treated promptly. In India many people (approximately 30000 annually or about 82 per day) and animals die from rabies.
Yet, rabies is a highly preventable disease. If proper care is taken death from rabies can be avoided with near certainty.

How do humans or animals acquire rabies?
People and animals can contract rabies only if they are bitten or scratched by an animal that already has rabies.  Their saliva carries the rabies virus which infects the new individual. However, the disease may occur rarely through inhalation and organ transplantation.

What are the animals that may spread rabies to humans or animals?
In India most people get rabies from dog bites (approximately 80%).  However, domestic animals like cats, pigs, horses, donkeys and wild animals like foxes, jackals, mongoose, monkeys, bears, etc. may infect humans and animals through their bites and scratches.

How does the virus cause disease in man or animals?
On entering the body, through bite or scratches or licks the virus grows in number  at the bite site, then reach the local nerves and then migrate along the nervous route towards central nervous system especially spinal cord and brain. Once the virus reaches the central nervous system it is very difficult to stop it. In the brain and nervous system it causes encephalitis and associated pathological changes.

What are the symptoms of rabies in animals and humans?
In humans rabies causes chiefly nervous diseases and personality alterations. The symptoms include headache, fever, sore throat, fever, chills, nervousness, confusion, pain or tingling at the site of the bite, hallucinations (seeing things that are not really there), hydrophobia (“Fear of water" due to spasms in the throat), paralysis and eventually coma and death.

Infected animals, though exhibit similar symptoms they differ to some extent. Mostly, there are aggression, excessive salivation from mouth, altered bellowing, excessive sensitivity to light and sound, aimless wandering, biting tendency, etc. Alternatively in some cases of rabies, the animal may shy away from its normal behavior and may hide in some secluded place.

Who are at risk of being infected with rabies?
Though rabies can infect any person or mammal, some are particularly at risk of acquiring infection due to occupational exposure. The risk group includes veterinarians, animal handlers, sales persons, farmers, zoo keepers, wildlife workers, laboratory personnel, adventure tourists, etc.

What does one do if bitten by an animal?

· Gently wash under running water with soap for 5 times over a period of 15 minutes.
· You may apply gentle antiseptics or disinfectants such as povidone iodine, spirit, etc.
· You may also put simple, non occlusive dressing, if required.
· See a Doctor, even if the bite is very small and the pet is vaccinated.
· You may attempt to observe the animal (dog) for 10 days for any sign of rabies in it and may report the same to your doctor (If the animal remains healthy you may not require a full course of vaccination, but the doctor will decide it).
· Take a shot of Tetanus toxoid and antibiotics in consultation with the physician.

· Apply Irritants like chilli powder, plant sap, lime, atta, etc.
· Never cauterize the wound.

Is rabies preventable?
Yes! It is a scientific fact that rabies is one of the most preventable of all infectious diseases.

How can one prevent rabies?
· Vaccinate your pets.
· Don’t let your cat or dog out its own as they may contract rabies without your knowledge.
· Stay away from stray animals and avoid dog bite.
· Appreciate wildlife from a distance.
· Get yourself vaccinated if bitten.

What are the vaccines available for rabies?
Essentially there are two types of vaccinations practiced for rabies in humans and animals. Vaccines that are used prior to bite (especially for pets to protect them from rabies and for humans who are at high risk of contracting rabies) are known as pre-exposure prophylaxis. This is usually done annually for pets. However, for most of the animal bite cases in humans post-bite vaccinations are followed. This comprises of 5 to 6 injections at scheduled interval. The schedule for post-bite vaccination is 0 day (the day of first vaccination), 3 day, 7 day, 14 day, 28 day and 90 day (optional).
Remember, all vaccinations are to be done under supervision of physician or veterinarian (as the case may be). Also remember, never take the vaccine shot in the gluteal region.

Are there any other treatment available for rabies?
Yes. Anti-Rabies Immunoglobulins (ARI) are available that are injected in case of severe bites and bites in head neck or other regions close to head. However, vaccinations are must and ARI is injected alongwith post-bite vaccines.

What is brucellosis?
Brucellosis is a bacterial disease that humans usually acquire from domestic animals like cattle, buffalo, sheep, goat, pig, dog, etc. The bacteria responsible for disease are known as Brucella spp. (B. abortus, B. melitensis, B. suis, B. canis, etc).
How do humans acquire brucellosis?
Ingestion (of unpasteurized milk, etc); Inhalation (of aerosol during occupational exposure); Direct contact with infect animal or their tissues or secretions / excretions (animal handling)
What are the symptoms in humans?
Variable (undulant) fever, chills, Headache, Night sweating, Weight loss, Joint pain, back ache, Depression, Fatigue, Skin rashes, Liver problems, etc.

What are the symptoms in animals?
Abortion in late pregnancy (5-8 months), Retention of placenta, Low milk yield, Temporary sterility, etc.

Who are at particular risk?
Animal farmers, Butchers, Farm workers, Veterinarians, Laboratory workers, etc.
Are there tests available for diagnosis of the disease in humans and animals?
Yes. There are a number of very reliable and affordable tests that can detect brucella infection in man and animals. For example, Rose Bengal Plate Test, Tube Agglutination test, ELISA, etc.

Is brucellosis curable?
Indeed. There is very effective treatment available for humans, which is recommended by World Health Organization. However, since the treatment is rather prolonged and not as much effective in animals it is not always economic to treat animals.

How can we prevent brucellosis?