Bird flu belongs to a group of infectious diseases which primarily infects birds. But these conditions are also capable of infecting humans. One particularly deadly and most common sub type of this category is the H5N1 virus. Also known as avian influenza, it is quite deadly to poultry. This disease can be passed on to humans and other animals which come in contact with a carrier. Bird flu has been significantly found in nations like Bangladesh, India, China, Indonesia, Egypt and Vietnam. According to the World Health Organization, this disease is fatal for 60% of people affected. So, it is important to know the whys and hows of this serious disease.
What is Bird Flu:
Bird flu affects several kinds of birds and has been mostly seen in farmed poultry, like chickens, geese, turkeys, ducks etc. The H5N1 virus is found to easily pass between birds via their saliva, feces, food, and nasal secretions. H5N1 Bird flu is caused by strain A of the influenza virus and is mostly contracted via sick birds. They can develop this virus from cages and other farming tools. Most of the individuals who get contaminated with this virus have either had direct contact with infected farmed poultry, or other objects having feces or secretions of the infected.
Symptoms of Bird Flu:
A person infected with the H5N1 virus is bound to develop certain serious symptoms. The incubation period generally ranges from 2 to 8 days, and could continue till 17 days, depending upon the type. You tend to suffer from typical flu signs and symptoms which include:
- Dry cough
- High fever, over 38 degrees centigrade
- Pain in bones, joints and muscles
- Hoarse voice
- Blocked and runny noise
- Bleeding nose
- Extreme fatigue
- Chest pain
- Cold sweats and chills
- Loss of appetite
- Upset stomach, even diarrhea
- Trouble sleeping
- Bleeding gums
- Breathing difficulties
- Bloody sputum
- Nausea and vomiting
- Multiple organ failure
Causes of Bird Flu:
Bird flu generally happens among wild waterfowl and then spread into domestic poultry like chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese. Humans can then develop this infection after coming into contact with the diseased birds. The common causes for a person getting infected include:
- Touching or de-feathering of the infected birds
- Preparing the infected poultry for cooking
- Handling infected birds for sale
- Touching or breathing in feces and secretion of infected poultry
- Slaughtering and butchering of the poultry
- Attending markets which sell such live birds
- If the infected poultry or eggs are cooked below an internal temperature of 74 degrees centigrade or until the egg whites and yolk is firm, they could spread the infection.
- People get infected with this virus after coming in contact with contaminated feed, equipment, shoes, clothing, vehicles, soil dust or water.
- By handling fighting cocks.
- Risk of developing this disease increases in poultry farmers, travelers, healthcare workers handling infected patients, household and family members of infected person etc.
Treatment for Bird Flu:
Different kinds of bird flu lead to different symptoms. The length of treatment depends on the severity of the condition. Depending on that, your doctor will suggest a treatment plan. Treatment needs to be prompt and proper, as this disease can turn fatal anytime.
- Antiviral medications are used to suppress viral replication and prevent fatality in certain cases. Medicines like oseltamivir or zanamivir can help to diminish the severity of the disease. However, the medicines should be administered within 48 hours after the first symptoms appear.
- Patients who are diagnosed with this disease should be kept at home or remain isolated in the hospital. Isolation helps to prevent the spreading of the virus.
- Patients are advised to take rest, drink plenty of fluids, and maintain a proper, nutritious diet for fast recovery from this disease.
Prevention of Bird Flu:
Though it is not possible to entirely prevent bird flu from spreading, authorities and increasing awareness can surely help the communities to prepare and fight against possible infections. Effective prevention methods include:
- Monitoring the bird migration patterns
- Washing hands with water and soap regularly, especially after handling raw poultry.
- Avoiding using the same utensils for preparing raw meat.
- Coughing into a tissue and carefully disposing it.
- Those who are infected should stay away from public spaces and avoid human contact.
- Staying up-to-date with seasonal flu and pneumococcal vaccinations.
- Refraining from going near a dead or sick bird. Call the relevant local authorities if you come across such a bird.
- People who are travelling to areas with bird flu outbreaks need to carry an alcohol-based sanitizer. Also, avoid attending live animal markets, poultry farms etc.
- Before travelling, ask your doctor to give you a flu shot.
A human is not easily infected with bird flu, if he/she doesn’t generally come in contact with poultry or farm birds. But that is no reason to be careless and ignorant. It is very important to pay heed to the early signs and symptoms. Consult a doctor if you have been feeling unwell after a recent trip to the farm or a place of bird flu outbreak.