What People Should Know About Bird Flu (Avian Flu)

Bird flu, also known as H5N1, Avian flu, or Avian influenza is an infection caused by different strains of influenza virus that primarily infect birds. There are three types of influenza viruses: type A, B, and C. Type A is a type of influenza virus that is mostly reserved in birds. It is transmitted from infected birds to humans when we get in contact with them. It is rare, but there have been some cases of human to human transmission.

How is the bird flu transmitted to humans?

  • Humans get infected by having contact with the bird’s feces.
  • Airborne droplets (cough or sneezes)
  • Nasal secretion.
  • Secretion from the eyes.

Brief History On Bird Flu:

  • Bird flu was initially isolated from a goose in China in 1996.
  • It was first discovered in 1997 in humans, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The outbreak of bird flu occurred in Hong Kong in 1997.
  • Since 2003, over 700 human cases of H5N1 have been reported to WHO from 15 countries in Asia, Europe, Africa, the Pacific, and the Middle East. 50 – 60% of those affected died.
  • In 2006, the first human-to-human transmission occurred when seven members of a family in Sumatra became following infected contact with relatives who had worked with infected poultry
  • According to the World Health Organization, as of August 10th, 2012, about 359 people have died from H5N1 in 12 countries. 
  •  H5N1 viral infection affects domestic animals such as cats, dogs, ferrets, and pigs.

Bird flu symptoms

Here are signs and symptoms of Bird flu:

What are bird flu risk factors?

  • Being a poultry farmer. 
  • Owning and keeping exotic birds at home. 
  • Traveling (visiting affected areas)
  • Eating undercooked poultry and eggs
  • Healthcare workers that are caring for infected patients
  • Household member of an infected person
  • Pregnant women
  • Weakened immunity (immunocompromised patients). 
  • Age: 65 years and above

Treatment Of Bird Flu:

  • Isolation: to avoid the spreading of the virus to others
  • Antiviral medication treatment such as Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or Zanamivir (Relenza) is administered within the first 24 hours to help lessen the harshness of the disease. 
  • Mechanical ventilation in cases with respiratory distress present

Complications Of Bird Flu

Bird flu can cause severe complications such as 

How to protect yourself from bird flu?

  • Eat well-cooked poultry or eggs
  • Do not eat runny eggs
  • Cook meat properly before consumption
  • Culling: is a method used to kill infected birds in other to reduce the transmission of the virus to humans. Infected birds can be killed by suffocation with foam
  • H5N1 survive for ten days in infected birds. Birds continue to release the virus in feces and saliva for that long therefore wearing gloves, disposable clothing, and the mask is useful when coming in contact with infected birds. 
  • Touching contaminated surfaces can spread the infection, so avoid touching surfaces, sanitized all surfaces around you, wash your hands, and sanitized them to prevent transferring infected substances to your face. 
  • Avoid open-air markets.

NOTE:

  • The two most common forms of antiviral medications, amantadine, and rimantadine (Flumadine) is not used to treat the disease.
  • Family or others in close contact with the infected person is also prescribed antiviral medications as a prudent measure, even if they do not fall sick.