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Bird Flu (Avian Influenza)- Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Which came first the chicken or the egg? Well, the answer to this question becomes of little importance as the new discussion relating to birds emerges. The discussion over The Bird Flu (Avian Influenza)- what is it, how is it spread, what are the causes, what are the symptoms and what is its treatment?

Bird Flu first broke out in India in 2006. In January 2019, the outbreak resurfaced in Patna, Bihar with the death of over 650 chickens. Today, social media is overflowing with discussions and debates over terrorism, obesity, stress, climate change etc. while throughout history infectious diseases has been by far the greatest killer of human beings.

Keeping in mind, the recent outbreak, it is essential that you know what Bird Flu (Avian Influenza) is all about. In this article, we will cover the details about the same.

bird flu, bird flu symptoms, Avian influenza
Source: freepik

What is Bird Flu?

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!!’– Well, not so soon. It is important to learn the basic facts about Bird Flu in order to avoid the infection.

Like humans, birds also get the flu. Bird Flu is also known as Avian Influenza. It refers to a group of a viral infection that spread to birds, animals and even humans. Most forms of the virus are restricted to birds. The most common type of Bird Flu infection, capable of spreading in humans, is H5N1.

H5N1, a subtype of Avian Flu, has a high mortality rate. It can be fatal in 60 percent of cases. The infection commonly affects wild birds. Bird flu virus is highly contagious and has high impact on domesticated birds like chickens, turkey and ducks.

Bird Flu remains a topic of concern among health officials and experts. It is feared that if the avian flu virus mutates into a form that transmits from people-to-people, it could lead to a global outbreak. That is why, the basic knowledge about the facts of Bird Flu should be discussed more.

How does Avian Influenza spread?

Wild birds tend to carry the infection in their intestines. However, they do not usually get infected by it. It occurs naturally among birds.

Infected birds transfer the virus to susceptible birds. They shed the virus through their saliva, nasal secretions and bird feces (droppings). Susceptible birds become infected when they come in contact with these secretions or with the surface if these secretions.

Humans, on the other hand, get infected when they come into close contact with these susceptible birds. Most cases of highly pathogenic bird flu in humans are a result of close contact with infected poultry or contaminated surfaces. However, ‘close culture’ varies in different cultures and thus, determines whether or not you are infected with bird flu.

There is no evidence in medical science of spread of this infection from human to human.

Should eating Chicken be avoided?

No, it is safe to eat properly cooked chicken and eggs. Humans do not catch Avian Influenza by eating cooked poultry. Because the virus is sensitive to heat. Experts believe that the infection eventually dies when the poultry is cooked above 70 degree Celsius (normally, at households, the said temperature is automatically achieved while cooking). Eggs should be cooked until the yolks and whites are firm. Good hygiene practices should be followed while cooking poultry meat.

So if you wish to eat chicken delicacies, cook the food properly and thoroughly to eliminate the virus.

How to identify if someone has Bird Flu – Symptoms?

Humans do not get infected by the Avian virus easily but there is a chance of catching the infection.

H5N1 infection can be identified in a person if the following symptoms are visible:

  • Coughing
  • Chest pain
  • Runny nose
  • Cold sweat
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty in sleeping
  • Fever over 100 degree Fahrenheit
  • Gum bleeding
  • Diaherra
  • Aching muscles and joints
  • Fatigue
  • Hoarse voice
  • Pneumonia
  • Bleeding in sputum
  • Eye Infection (a very rare symptom)

Most of the symptoms resemble to a common flu. So, you must consult a doctor before deciding for yourself if you have Bird Flu or not. Rapid deterioration of health is a sign of the Avian flu.

During the seasonal flu outbreaks, if you suffer from any of the symptoms, it is advisable to visit doctors or centers for disease control and prevention immediately. Inform the doctor if you have visited a farm, handled a deceased or a dead bird prior to cooking or come in close contact with any poultry at all.

What are risk factors of developing The Bird Flu?

The greatest and forement risk factor of getting infected with H5N1 bird flu is ‘close contact’ with infected birds.

Touching or coming in direct contact with the contaminated surface is a major risk factor.

You may be at high risk of being infected if:

  • You visit or own a poultry farm
  • You are exposed to the infected birds
  • You are handling or caring for sick birds
  • You eat undercooked poultry or eggs
  • You slaughter or butcher infected birds
  • You touch unwashed eggs of infected birds
  • You touch water contaminated with infection by sick birds
  • You visit open markets where infected birds are placed for sale

How is the Bird Flu diagnosed?

A test has been approved by experts to identify H5N1 infection in humans. The test is called Influenza A/H5 (Asian Lineage) virus real-time primer and probe set.

Sadly, the test is not widely available.

If your symptoms match with those of Avian flu, upon consultation, your doctor may perform chest x-rays, white blood cell differential tests among others for disease control and prevention.

What is the prevention for Bird Flu?

Unfortunately, it is not possible, yet, to prevent the bird flu from spreading. It is always better to keep a bad thing from happening than to fix it after it has happened.

A bird flu vaccine has been approved by medical authorities to prevent the H5N1 virus infection. It has not yet been made available to the public. (Authorities are stocking it in a pile to be used in case an epidemic occurs).

One of the major preventions for the Bird Flu is getting the flu vaccine. This is to avoid the human strain of influenza.

People can be responsible for their health and take some very simple yet useful precautions to prevent the flu. These precautions include:

  • Washing your hands properly with warm water and soap frequently
  • Coughing with the mouth covered with tissue or handkerchief
  • Staying isolated if you have the flu, to avoid the spreading of the infection

Oseltamivir Tamiflu is used by some doctors for disease control and prevention and as internal medicine for treatment.

Recommendations for Travelers

There are no restrictions on traveling to a country with rise of bird influenza. However, if you are traveling to an Avian Flu affected country, you must consider the following:

  • Avoid visiting farms or open-air markets
  • Keep a sanitizer and use it frequently to clean your hands
  • Ask your doctor for a flu shot before travelling

What is the treatment for Avian Flu?

The treatment for Bird Flu may vary depending on the symptoms highlighted in the patient.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), antiviral medication can be prescribed to the diseased. The antiviral would suppress the complications of the flu and improve the condition of the patient.

The dosage of the medication will depend on how severe the patient’s condition is.

Medical professionals advise patients with Bird Flu to get complete rest, consume large quantities of fluids and eat proper nutrients.

In most severe cases, where the patient’s’ condition seems to be deteriorating drastically, the doctor may advise the patient to be treated promptly in the hospital.

Take Away

In January 2019, over 600 poultry birds and other animals had died. The authorities had, as a result, culled more than 2000 poultry birds. The incident gave rise to a Bird Flu scare and also gave way to the discussions on this topic.

The lethal disease concerned everyone and mostly worried non-vegetarians. As they were troubled over the question of whether to eat poultry meat and eggs or not. The cloud of confusion has been lifted now. You may go on ahead and eat your favorite chicken dish, be it-chicken tikka, tadoori chicken, butter chicken or any other delicacy. You should, however, be sure that the food is completely cooked. You should also note to maintain proper hand hygiene before and after eating your meals.

Information and Awareness on such a fatal flu should be made regularly to make people familiar with the basic information about the same.

If you think you have symptoms similar to the ones mentioned above in this article, consult a doctor today or book an appointment with Credihealth.

For more information and free personalised guidance, talk to our Medical Experts now.

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