Facts About Bird Flu

Perhaps you have heard about avian flu, which is sometimes referred to as bird flu, and you are curious about whether you or your loved ones are in danger of contracting it. The following information will provide you with a better understanding of this illness and what can be done to fight it.

What is Bird Flu?

Medical researchers have recently expressed their concern that the strain of avian flu known as H5N1 has the potential to develop into a worldwide pandemic, capable of causing widespread illness and death.

The virus that causes avian flu is transmitted via wild birds that spread the illness to birds that are raised as sources of human food. Though the virus has little negative impact on the wild birds, it has a devastating effect on the livestock.

Generally speaking, bird flu is not transmitted to humans by way of birds. But, the last decade has witnessed cases in the hundreds where humans have actually contracted bird flu. Scientists worry that if the illness keeps spreading and adapting, a pandemic could result. The reason for this concern stems from the fact that humans have no immunity whatsoever against this illness. If the human body is incapable of producing antibodies against the illness, hospitalization is necessary and serious consequences can occur. Thus, bird flu has the potential to evolve into an extremely serious risk for the entire human population.

Bird Flu Symptoms

In most instances, the symptoms of bird flu begin to present themselves between two to five days following initial infection. Broadly speaking, the symptoms of avian flu are quite similar to those of more traditional types of influenza, and they include:

* High fever * Throat soreness * Coughing * Aching muscles

There are also those who have symptoms such as vomiting, extreme nausea and diarrhea. In certain unusual instances, a relatively mild infection of the eyes will be the only sign that the illness is present.

Causes of Bird Flu

Bird flu is a naturally occurring illness among waterfowl in the wild, but it can certainly be transmitted into populations of domesticated poultry. Turkeys, chickens, geese and ducks can be infected with the virus. The illness is spread by way of contact with the feces of an infected animal or through contact with a sick bird’s nasal or oral secretions.

It is not uncommon for open-air marketplaces in which eggs and poultry are sold and kept in dirty conditions to be breeding grounds for this particular illness. Therefore, they can sometimes serve as the catalyst for more widespread occurrences of the disease.

The United States Food and Drug Administration has emphasized the fact that as long as poultry and eggs from infected birds is cooked to a proper temperature, avian flu cannot be transmitted to humans by way of food. Poultry needs to reach an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit, while eggs must be cooked so that the yolk is firm and completely white.

Available Bird Flu Treatments

Unfortunately, several flu viruses have evolved to the point of being resistant to antiviral medications such as rimantadine and amantadine. Public health experts suggest that effective alternatives include drugs such as oseltamivir, known as Tamiflu, and also zanamivir, sold under the name Relenza.

All such drugs need to be administered within two days of symptom onset in order to be effective. However, this often proves almost impossible in some regions of the world. The limited supply of these drugs in some areas only serves to increase concern over what might happen if a pandemic were to take hold.

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