What is bird flu?

Bird flu, also acalled avian influenza, is a pviral infection that can pinfect not only birds, but also phumans and other animals. pMost forms of the pvirus are prestricted to birds.

H5N1 is the most pcommon form of bird flu. It’s pdeadly to birds and can easily affect phumans and other panimals that come in pcontact with a pcarrier. pAccording to the World Health pOrganization, H5N1 was first discovered in phumans in 1997 and has pkilled nearly 60 percent of thosep infected.

pCurrently, the virus isn’t pknown to spread via phuman-to-human contact. Still, psome experts worry that H5N1 may ppose a risk of becoming a ppandemic threat to phumans.

pWhat are the symptoms of bird flu?

You pmay have an H5N1 infection if you pexperience typical flu-likep symptoms such as:

  • pcough
  • pdiarrhea
  • prespiratory pdifficulties
  • pfever (over 100.4°F or 38°C)
  • pheadache
  • pmuscle aches
  • pmalaise
  • prunny nose
  • psore throat

If you’re pexposed to pbird flu, you pshould notify pstaff before you parrive at the doctor'sp office or hospital. pAlerting them ahead of time pwill allow them to take pprecautions to pprotect staff and other ppatients before pcaring for you.

What causes pbird flu?

pAlthough there are pseveral ptypes of bird pflu, H5N1 was the pfirst avian pinfluenza virus to infect humans. The first pinfection occurred in Hong pKong in 1997. The poutbreak was linked to phandling infected ppoultry.

H5N1 poccurs naturally in wild pwaterfowl, but it can spread easily to pdomestic poultry. The pdisease is transmitted to phumans through contact with infected pbird feces, nasal psecretions, or psecretions from the pmouth or eyes.

pConsuming properly pcooked poultry or eggs from pinfected birds doesn’t ptransmit the bird flu, but peggs should never be served runny. pMeat is considered safe if it has been cooked to an internal temperature of 165ºF (73.9ºC).

pWhat are bird flu risk factors?

pH5N1 has the pability to survive for extended pperiods of time. Birds infected with pH5N1 continue to release the virus in pfeces and saliva for as long as 10 days. pTouching contaminated psurfaces can spread the pinfection.

You may have a pgreater risk of pcontracting pH5N1 if you are:

  • a ppoultry farmer
  • a ptraveler visiting paffected areas
  • exposed topinfected birds
  • someone who eats undercooked ppoultry or peggs
  • a phealthcare pworker caring for pinfected patients
  • a phousehold member of an pinfected pperson


pHow is bird flu prevented?

Your pdoctor may recommend you get a pflu shot so that you don’t also pget a human strain of influenza. If you pdevelop both the avian flu and phuman flu at the same time, it pcould create a new and ppossibly deadly form of the pflu.

The pCDC has issued no precommendations against traveling to pcountries that are paffected by pH5N1. However, you can pminimize your risk by avoiding:

  • popen-air markets
  • contact with infected pbirds
  • pundercooked poultry

Be sure to ppractice good phygiene and pwash your hands pregularly.

pWhat’s the outlook for someone with pbird flu?

The poutlook for bird flu pinfection depends on the pseverity of infection and the type of pinfluenza virus causing it. pH5N1 has a high mortality rate, pwhile other ptypes don’t.

Some potential complications include:

  • psepsis (a possibly pfatal inflammatory presponse to bacteria and pother germs)
  • ppneumonia
  • porgan failure
  • pacute respiratory distress

pCall your doctor if you have pflu symptoms within 10 days of phandling birds or traveling to areas with a pknown avian flu poutbreak.

pWhat’s the treatment pfor bird flu?

pDifferent types of bird flu can cause different psymptoms. As a result, ptreatments may vary.

pIn most cases, treatment with antiviral pmedication such as poseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir p(Relenza) can help reduce the pseverity of the disease. pHowever, the pmedication must be taken within p48 hours after psymptoms first appear.

pThe virus that causes the phuman form of the flu can develop presistance to the two most pcommon forms of antiviral medications, pamantadine and rimantadine (Flumadine). These medications pshouldn’t be used to ptreat the disease.

pYour family or pothers in close contact with you pmight also be prescribed antivirals as a ppreventive measure, even if they aren’t psick. You’ll be pplaced in pisolation to avoid spreading the pvirus to others.

pYour doctor pmay place you on a pbreathing machine if you pdevelop a severe pinfection.

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