Avian Influenza H5N1 (Bird Flu)

Avian influenza, also known as bird flu, is an infectious disease in birds caused by type A of the influenza virus.

Domestic poultry, including chickens and turkeys, are particularly vulnerable to this rapidly fatal influenza. They become infected with the avian flu virus through direct contact with an infected bird’s saliva, nasal secretions, and excreta or through contact with contaminated surfaces (such as cages) or materials (such as water or feed).

Birds infected by this type A influenza virus have a spectrum of symptoms, ranging from mild illness to a highly contagious and rapidly fatal disease resulting in severe epidemics, which are characterised by sudden onset, severe illness and rapid death.

Influenza A viruses can also occur in humans. There have been confirmed cases of human infection from avian flu since 1997. This transmission from birds to humans resulted from direct contact with infected poultry or surfaces contaminated with secretion/excretions from infected birds.

Bird Flu Causes and Risk Factors 

Influenza A (H5N1) virus, also called H5N1 virus, is a subtype of the influenza A virus that mainly affects birds and is deadly to them. However, infections with the H5N1 virus have occurred in humans. The primary mode of transmission in human cases of avian influenza virus infection is from bird to human through direct or close contact with infected birds or contaminated surfaces. To date, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated that there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission.

Bird Flu Signs and Symptoms 

Symptoms of avian influenza in humans are typical human influenza-like symptoms, such as:
Sore throat
Severe muscle aches

Bird Flu Complications 

Complications resulting from human infection caused by avian influenza include:
Eye infections
Acute respiratory distress
Severe infection that can lead to death

Bird Flu Treatment

Antiviral drugs are effective for both prevention and treatment against influenza A virus strains in otherwise healthy people.

Bird Flu Prevention

If you intend to travel to countries with cases of avian influenza, you should adopt the following good hygiene practices to minimise your risk of acquiring the disease:
Avoid contact with live poultry and birds, especially for children
Avoid crowded areas and stay in places with good ventilation
Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after handling live poultry and birds, and after coughing and sneezing
Build up a strong immunity system in your body. Start by having a regular exercise regime and a well-balanced diet that includes two servings of vegetables and two servings of fruits daily. Make sure to get adequate rest, reduce your stress levels and do not smoke

Currently, there is no vaccine for bird flu. Do note that the vaccine for normal influenza does not give protection against bird flu.

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