Bird Flue


The bird flu is also known as avian flu, avian influenza and H5N1. It is obvious for humans to catch flu, but the fact prevails for all living beings. There should be no doubts about the development of flu in animals. Poultry animals mostly chicken and wild animals mostly ducks get infected. Mostly, the bird flu virus is only dangerous for other birds however it can offer health risks to the people. In 1997, the first case of a man who was infected by the bird flu came into limelight in Hong Kong. The bird flu is since then knowingly spreading in the birds of Asia, Africa and Europe.

Such infection in human beings is not very common but unfortunately the bird flu virus in birds can mutate to infect the humankind that can easily lead into a global illness or a pandemic. When bird flu outbreak, sickness prevails in people who are in direct contact of the birds. The bird flu can possibly spread on eating the improperly cooked meat of an infected animal or by coming into contact of another infected human being. No vaccine is found yet. The flu can either make people exceptionally sick or kill them. Until now the bird flu has resulted into the death of billions of domestic and wild birds and a fraction of human beings.

Image credit @CDC

Symptoms of bird flu

It is not clear what the exact incubation of bird flu in humans is. After one’s getting exposed to the virus, the flu develops within one to five days. Aching muscles, sore throat, cough and fever are the common symbols of bird flu. At times the only sign of the flu is a mild eye infection. Severe symptoms of bird flu when it starts to threaten life are: viral pneumonia and acute pain in respiration that results into death.

Every winter in United States about 36000 people die of influenza as per the data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is also observed that in each century about three to four times a flu pandemic breaks to claim the death of millions. The flu has the capability to create disasters because it spreads quickly and the only cure is to guess the best suitable vaccine

The virus of influenza

There are three strains of influenza: influenza A, Influenza B and onfluenza C. Influenza C is of mild nature, it is rare and comparatively stable than the other strains. Influenza A becomes the cause of deadly pandemics. Influenza B results in indigenous and smaller outbursts. The flu that targets us every winter is either caused by influenza A or influenza B. Type B and C are only diagnosed in humans where influenza A is also discovered in horses, pigs, seals, birds and whales.

A number of sub-types of influenza A exists out of which at least 15 types are responsible for affecting birds, the most dangerous is H5N1.

How humans are victimized by the bird flu?

It was initially thought that the avian virus does not infect humans but the 1997 bird flu of Hong Kong trapped 18 people out of which 6 passed away. Until then research has shown that those who have contact with places where dead birds are kept or poultry are an easy victim.

It is astonishing that certain types of bird flu do not even need a third party or intervener. They mutate their gene within the human body. The kind is more threatening. Let us show you the picture of spread of influenza more clearly:

  • The waterfowl, natural carriers of the virus that causes bird flu left the virus in their discharges, saliva and droppings.
  • The domestic birds whenever come into contact with the affected birds, natural carriers of the virus, water, food or even soil gets the infection. The flu spreads quickly in the domestic flocks. The virus moves from farm to farm by the virtue of clothes or/and shoes of worker, cages, equipment, food, etc. The virus can be killed by increasing temperature but in cold places it can survive for long periods.
  • The bird flu is distributed on massive level in open markets where stalls of egg, meat, and animals are sold. The virus can be easily transferred by touching the infected animal, goods or food. At all points, not only humans but other animals are at risk of getting the virus which may develop into any form once it gets in.

To seek the medical advice

In case you have traveled out of country and visited a place where a number of birds existed and on your return you are victimized by flu, cough, fever and body aches. Do not forget to inform your doctor about your visit to open markets or farms in case you did.

There are tests to diagnose flu but it until now none of the test if competent enough to differentiate between avian flue and influenza A. research is going on but the best is to be at one’s guard after coming into contact with living or dead. The bird flu makes life miserable by filling lungs with fluid that makes breaths impossible. The complexity of bird flu lies in its spread from infected human being to others.

Treatment of Bird Flue

The treatment of bird flu is made by a flu drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu) that controls the virus from increasing. The effectiveness of Tamiflu against H5N1 is not determined yet. Zanamivir (Relenza), another antiviral flu drug, is considered to be a substitute. However, there is no guarantee that the viruses will not resist these vaccines. The drugs must be consumed within the two days of symptom’s appearance. The solution or the treatment is logically impossible as the symptoms of bird flu are mingled with common influenza. The vaccine is limited in number and no one knows how the infection can be cured if it spread globally.

Prevention for Bird Flue Virus

The best way to get rid of bird flu is to prevent the virus. In case you have to travel to South East Asia or any other region where bird flu has spread than you should follow some medical recommendations:

  • Domesticated birds should be avoided: In case you have to be in rural areas then try your level best to avoid coming in contact with the domestic animals and farm houses.
  • Open air markets must be avoided: You must have an urge for visiting and enjoying the local aroma but you should avoid such places as the risk factor of getting infected is very high.
  • Wash hands: A consistent habit of washing your hands is very helpful. It helps in keeping infections at an arm’s length. Hand sanitizers that have at least 60 per cent alcohol are best for using abroad as they do not ask for water and offer no dangers to children.
  • Guard children: It has been observed that children have a habit of licking their thumb or fingers. Observe your children and told them either to refrain from the habit or keep their hands well-washed.
  • Steer clear of raw eggs: Bird droppings often contaminate eggs s you should avoid all those foods that contain raw or uncooked eggs like mayonnaise, ice cream, hollandaise sauce, etc.
  • Cooking thoroughly: World Health Organization (WHO) considers that cooked food is not harmful for human beings and offer no risks of bird flu. You should cook food properly. You should not stop cooking before the internal temperature of meet reaches 165 F or 74 C.

Health officials are concerned that a major bird flu outbreak could occur in humans if the virus — H5N1 — mutates into a form that can spread more easily from person to person. The grimmest scenario would be a global outbreak to rival the flu pandemic of 1918 and 1919, which claimed millions of lives worldwide. For now, researchers are trying to develop a vaccine that would protect people in the event of a bird flu pandemic.