how to prevent bird flu

What Is Bird Flu? All You Need to Know About Avian Influenza

Bird Flu, also known as Avian Influenza is a type of viral that primarily affects birds, animals, and some humans. While the chances of the virus affecting a human are low, it still is a possibility, although most avian influenza types are restricted to birds only. H5N1 is one of the most common forms of bird flu, it’s extremely infectious and deadly to almost all kinds of birds.

According to the WHO, H5N1 was first discovered in humans in 1997 and has a mortality rate of almost 60%. As of right now, there is no indication of the virus being spread between humans with human to human contact. Some experts believe that H5N1 may become the next global pandemic. As serious as Bird Flu can be, not a lot of people have the much-needed information about the disease. Here’s all you need to know about Bird Flu.

What Are The Symptoms of Bird Flu?

The symptoms for Bird Flu are pretty common, you may have an H5N1 infection if you experience typical flu-like symptoms such as:

  • Cough
  • Diarrhea
  • Respiratory difficulties
  • Fever (body temperature more than 100.4°F)
  • Headache
  • Muscle ache
  • Constantly runny nose
  • Sore throat or pain in the throat
  • Mild conjunctivitis
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

All these symptoms also point towards normal flu but if you think you have contracted the Bird Flu, then you should notify the hospital staff and doctors before visiting the hospital for treatment. If you alert them prior, then it will allow them to take necessary precautions to protect the staff and all the other patients.

What Is The Reason For Bird Flu?

While there are multiple types of bird flu, the H5N1 was the first one to infect humans. The infection came into existence in Hong Kong in 1997 and the outbreak was caused due to handling infected poultry. H5N1 usually happens naturally in nature but in the case of domestic poultry, the outbreak can happen easily. 

The disease then is passed onto humans when they come in contact with infected bird feces, nasal secretions, or fluid secretions from the mouth or the eyes. If you consume meat or eggs from infected birds, your chances of an infection increase. Eggs should never be served in a runny form, they should be cooked properly. Meat is considered safe as it is cooked internally at an ideal temperature. All the stuff that you eat should be consumed by cooking it properly. 

What Are The Risk Factors of Getting Infected With Bird Flu?

Like many viruses, the H5N1 has the ability to survive for a longer period of time. Birds infected with H5NI continue to release the virus and infected saliva for up to 10 days. Also touching the contaminated surfaces can spread the infection in humans. You may have more risk of getting infected with H5N1 if you are:

  • A poultry farmer
  • A traveler visiting affected areas
  • Exposed to infected birds
  • If you eat uncooked meat or eggs
  • A healthcare worker taking care of infected patients
  • If someone in your family has been infected with the virus

How to Diagnose Bird Flu?

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) has approved a particular test to determine whether a person has been infected with Avian Influenza or not. The name of the test is A/H5 virus real-time RT-PCR primer and probe set. While the results for the test can be acquired in just 4 hours, the test isn’t widely available. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may also run any of these tests:

  • Auscultation (test for detecting abnormal breathing sound)
  • White blood cell differential
  • Nasopharyngeal culture
  • Chest X-Ray

What’s The Known Bird Flu Treatment?

As we mentioned, there are multiple types of bird flu and multiple symptoms, so based on that the treatment may vary from person to person. 

Most of the cases are treated with an Antiviral medication which can help to reduce the severity of the disease. However, the medication must be taken within the first 48 hours once the symptoms start appearing.

The strain of the virus that causes the human form of the flu can develop resistance to two of the most common antiviral medications. The names of the medicines are:

  • Amantadine
  • Rimantadine

According to several healthcare physicians, these medications shouldn’t be used to treat the condition. All the members of your family and people who have been in contact with you will be prescribed to take the anti-viral medicines and they will be asked to stay in quarantine to minimize the spread of the virus.

What Are The Long Term Complications of Bird Flu?

If someone has contracted the Bird Flu infection, the resulting complications are depended on the severity of the infection and what type of infection you have. The H5N1 virus has a high mortality rate while other types of viruses don’t. Some potential complications also include:

  • Sepsis (possibly fatal inflammatory response to bacteria and other types of germs)
  • Pneumonia
  • Organ failure
  • Acute respiratory distress

You should immediately call your doctors if you have flu-like symptoms within 10 days of handling birds or if you’ve recently traveled to areas that recently have been affected by the Avian Influenza outbreak.

How To Prevent Bird Flu?

Your doctor will most probably recommend you to get a flu shot so that you don’t develop a human strain of influenza. If you develop bird flu and a human strain of the virus, it can lead to creating a brand new and much worse form of the flu which can be even deadlier to humans. 

While the CDC has issued no recommendations against traveling to places that are currently affected by Avian Influenza. However, you can minimize your risk by avoiding:

  • Open-air markets
  • Contact with infected birds or stop eating eggs and meat if your area has been infected with the virus.
  • Avoid eating undercooked poultry

Also, make sure to practice good hygiene practices like frequently washing your hands. We are sure that the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus has taught you all the things you should avoid during a viral outbreak. As we mentioned, FDA has approved a vaccine designed to protect against the Avian flu, but the vaccine isn’t available worldwide. According to all the experts, the vaccine should be used on anyone who’s contracted the H5N1.

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