Bird flu, or avian flu, is an infectious type of influenza that spreads among birds. In rare cases, it can affect humans. There are many different strains of bird flu virus, most of which don’t infect humans. However, two particular strains have caused serious concern in recent years:
• H5N1 (since 1997)
• H7N9 (since 2013)
Although these viruses don’t infect people easily and aren’t usually transmitted from human to human, several people have been infected around the world, leading to a number of deaths.
Other bird flu viruses – particularly H7N7 and H9N2, and more recently H6N1, H10N8 and H5N6 – have also infected people, but these have been very rare or only rarely caused severe illness.Bird flu affects many species of birds, including chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese. It can be passed between commercial, wild and pet birds. Birds don’t always get sick from infection, so seemingly healthy birds may still pose a risk to people who come into contact with them.
Signs and symptoms:- Like other types of flu, bird flu symptoms often include:
• A high temperature (fever)
• Aching muscles
• Respiratory symptoms, such as a cough or runny nose
Diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal (tummy) pain, chest pain, and bleeding from the nose and gums have also been reported as early symptoms in some people.These symptoms can come on suddenly. The time from infection to the start of symptoms (incubation period) is usually three to five days, although in some cases it can be up to seven days. Within days of symptoms appearing, potentially fatal complications such as pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome and multiple organ failure may develop. Prompt treatment with antiviral medication may help prevent complications and reduce the risk of death.
How bird flu spreads to humans:- Bird flu is spread through direct contact with infected birds (dead or alive), an infected bird’s droppings, or secretions from their eyes or respiratory tract. Close and prolonged contact with an infected bird is generally required for the infection to spread to humans. For example:
• Touching infected birds that are dead or alive
• Inhaling or being in contact with dried dust from the droppings or bedding of infected birds
• Inhaling or being in contact with droplets sneezed by infected birds
• Culling, slaughtering, butchering or preparing infected poultry for cooking
Another possible source of bird flu can be live markets, where birds are sold in crowded and sometimes unsanitary conditions. Avoid visiting these markets if you’re travelling in countries that have had an outbreak of bird flu. Bird flu isn’t transmitted through cooked food. Poultry and eggs are safe to eat in areas that have experienced outbreaks of bird flu.
Treatment:- People with suspected symptoms of bird flu (avian flu) will be advised to stay at home, or will be cared for in hospital in isolation from other patients.
The main recommendations are:
• Drinking plenty of fluids and eating healthily
• Taking medication to help treat fever and pain, such as aspirin and paracetamol
Oseltamivir (Tamiflu), Hopetavir (Sofosbuvir) and Peramivir (Rapivab) help reduce the severity of the condition, prevent complications and improve the chances of survival.For regular flu, these medications are most effective if given within 48 hours of symptoms developing, but it’s not clear if this is the case for bird flu. Nevertheless, they should be given as soon as possible to people suspected or proven to be infected, even if it’s more than 48 hours after symptoms started.
These medications may also be given as a preventative measure to people who could have been exposed to bird flu viruses – for example, other household members, healthcare workers, or people who have had close contact with infected birds.In these cases, the course of medication should begin as soon as possible after exposure to the virus and continue for 7 to 10 days after the last known exposure.