Avian influenza or Bird Flu is a viral infection that can infect not only birds, but also humans and other animals. Most forms of the virus are restricted to birds.

Bird’s flu

Is bird flu Bird’s flu? Of course, like humans, birds also get flu and is known as “avian influenza”. It is caused by viruses that infect birds and make them ill. It is an infectious disease of birds caused by type A strains of the influenza virus. The virus is spread when wild birds pass the virus along to birds such as chickens or ducks that are being raised for human consumption. While the wild birds do not seem to be affected by the virus, the livestock that contract the virus get very sick and many die.

Avian influenza A viruses are classified into the following two categories: low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) A viruses, and highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A viruses. There are 16 different avian flu types. The H5N1 strain is the one that causes the most concern, because it is the most virulent; the deadliest.Next doubt arising in minds is this can be transferred to humans. Even though human infection with H5N1 is rare. Most cases of H5N1 infection are thought to have occurred as a result of direct or close contact with sick or infected poultry. Human infection is still very rare, but the virus that causes the infection in birds might change, or mutate, to more easily infect humans. This could lead to a pandemic, a worldwide outbreak of the illness. Influenza A virus subtype H7N9 is a novel avian influenza virus which causes raising concern. It was first reported to have infected humans in 2013 in China.

Flu viruses undergo regular genetic mutations.
Bird viruses prefer to bind with molecules located deep within the lungs. This remote location inside the body makes it more difficult to spread the bird flu virus by coughing or sneezing. There is no vaccine available to protect against H5N1, though clinical trials are currently testing several prototype vaccines.

How can this cause? During an outbreak of bird flu, people who have contact with infected birds can become sick. It may also be possible to catch bird flu by eating poultry or eggs that are not well cooked or through contact with a person who has it. Bird flu can make people very sick or even cause death. Antiviral medicines may make the illness less severe, and may help prevent the flu in people who were exposed to it. There is currently no vaccine..

What are the symptoms? How can it be avoided? Symptoms occur approximately two to eight days after exposure, on average. Infected people experience typical flu-like symptoms, including fever, cough, sore throat, and muscle aches. Some people also have nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, or eye infections. This can progress to pneumonia and even cause respiratory failure. To prevent avian influenza:

  • If you are in an area where avian influenza is a risk, protect yourself by practicing good hand hygiene.
  • If you will be handling birds known or thought be infected, protect yourself with gloves, goggles, a medical gown, shoe covers, and a mask designed for very small particles, such as a tuberculosis mask.
  • There is little known about transmission of avian influenza between humans, but to be on the safe side, do not allow secretions, sneezing, or coughing to contaminate other humans, particularly children, the elderly, and the immunocompromised..

As already discussed, there is no commercially available vaccine for humans against bird flu strains. There are “antiviral” drugs like oseltamivir or zanamivir available that help treat the signs and symptoms of flu if they are taken within the first 48 hours of flu symptoms. Researchers are still continuing their work on other types of bird flu vaccines… Since prevention is always better, try to avoid infection in any situation and stay protected….