Understanding of Avian flu


Avian flu, known as bird flu, and formally called Avian influenza, is simply defined as an illness caused by the Avian influenza virus which can be spread from animal to animal and animal to human.

There are 16 types of Avian viruses and H5N1 is the most common form. It’s deadly to most birds as well as humans and other mammals that have contacts with the carriers. The first human case was discovered in 1997, and since then, H5N1 has killed approximately 60% of those infected. Fortunately, at the moment, it is believed that H5N1 can hardly be spread from person to person.

How do humans get Avian flu?

Chicken are kept in a cage on back of a vendor's bicycle in a rural market in Jinan, northern China's Shandong province, Saturday, Jan. 17, 2009. A 27-year-old woman in Jinan city has died from bird flu in the country's second death from the disease this year, the Ministry of Health said. (AP Photo) ** CHINA OUT **

Among different types of bird flu, H5N1 was the first avian influenza virus to infect humans. The first human case was in Hong Kong in 1997, then hundreds of people got infected with this dangerous virus in Asia, Africa, Europe, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Pacific, and the near East. The disease is mainly transmitted to humans through contacting with infected birds. People may have a higher risk of getting illness if they:

– Work in a farm with poultry.

– Touch an infected bird.

– Consume raw or undercooked poultry meat, eggs, or blood from infected birds.

– Travel to areas where are affected by H5N1.

– Work as a healthcare worker for infected patients

What are symptoms of avian flu infection in humans?

Bird flu symptoms vary from people to people and depend on each type of virus. Usually, at the beginning, the H5N1 symptoms are nearly the same as normal flu ones which include:

– Cough

– Diarrhea

– Respiratory difficulties

– Fever over 100.4°F (38°C)

– Headache

– Malaise

– Muscle aches

– Runny nose

– Sore throat

Possible complications of highly pathogenic H5N1 in people are:

– Pneumonia

– Respiratory failure

– Shock

– Altered mental state

– Seizures

– Failure of multiple organs

– Death

What’s the treatment for Avian flu?


The treatment process of H5N1 varies based on symptoms of the patients. The flu drugs oseltamivir (Tamiflu), zanamivir (Relenza), or peramivir (Rapivab) are usually used to make the disease less severe. The patients are required to take the medicine within 48 hours after the symptoms start.

The type of virus causing human Avian flu is proved to be resistant to the antiviral medicines amantadine and rimantadine. Therefore, they are not recommended to use in H5N1 treatment among humans.

Serious patients should be placed on a breathing machine. Also, keep them separate from others to avoid infection.

How to prevent Avian flu?


A type of vaccine which is able to protect humans from the Avian flu is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, however, it is not available to the public at the moment. The vaccine is planned to be used if the current H5N1 virus begins to spreading from person to person.

Additionally, people are recommended to take some measures to avoid getting infected with H5N1:

– Avoid close contact with infected birds.

– Avoid visiting infected areas.

– Avoid eating undercooked or uncooked meat.

– Wash hands before and after touching raw poultry or eggs.



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