Avian flu or influenza is a disease caused by infection with avian (bird) influenza (flu) Type A viruses. These viruses occur naturally among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species. The Type A virus infects the intestines and respiratory tract of birds and poultry, but they usually do not get sick.
"However, avian influenza A viruses are very contagious among birds and some of these viruses can sicken and even kill certain domesticated bird species including chickens, ducks, and turkeys," the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention of America said.
H5N1 variety of Avian flu is the most common form of bird flu. It is deadly for birds and can easily affect humans and other animals that come in contact with a carrier. There are no reports of human-to-human spread of the virus. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), H5N1 was first discovered in humans in 1997 and has killed nearly 60 percent of those infected.
On Tuesday, China's National Health Commission (NHC) said that H10N3 is a low pathogenic or relatively less severe, the strain of the virus in poultry and the risk of it spreading on a large scale was very low. It is to be mentioned that many different strains of avian influenza are present in China and some sporadically infect people, usually those working with poultry. There have been no significant numbers of human infections with bird flu since the H7N9 strain killed around 300 people during 2016-2017. [Also Read: First Cases Of Bird Flu in Humans Detected in Russia]
What are types of Avian Flu?
• H10N3 - the one found in the man from China, is a low pathogenic or relatively less severe strain of the virus. This is found in poultry and the risk of it spreading on a large scale is very low.
• H5N8 - This is a subtype of the Influenza A virus (also known as the bird flu virus). While H5N8 only presents a low risk to humans, it is highly lethal to wild birds and poultry.
• H5N1 - This is another type of avian flu. According to World Health Organisation, it was in 1997 that for the first time humans were infected with this strain and 60 per cent of those infected died.
Avian influenza A viruses are classified into two categories: low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) A viruses, and highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A viruses.
Symptoms of Avian Flu
You may have an H5N1 infection if you experience typical flu-like symptoms such as:
• respiratory difficulties
• fever (over 100.4°F or 38°C)
• muscle aches
• runny nose
• sore throat
Causes of Avian Flu
Although there are several types of bird flu, H5N1 was the first avian influenza virus to infect humans. The first infection occurred in Hong Kong in 1997. The outbreak was linked to handling infected poultry. It occurs naturally in wild waterfowl, but it can spread easily to domestic poultry. The disease is transmitted to human beings through contact with infected bird feces, nasal secretions, or secretions from the mouth or eyes.
Consuming properly cooked poultry or eggs from infected birds doesn't transmit the bird flu, but eggs should never be served in a liquid form. Meat is considered safe if it has been cooked to an internal temperature of 165ºF (73.9ºC).
What Are the Risk Factors for Avian Flu?
H5N1 has the ability to survive for extended periods of time. Birds infected with H5N1 continue to release the virus in feces and saliva for as long as 10 days. Touching contaminated surfaces can spread the infection.
Here are some of the risks of contracting H5N1, if you are:
• a poultry farmer
• a traveler visiting affected areas
• exposed to infected birds
• someone who eats undercooked poultry or eggs
• a healthcare worker caring for infected patients
• a household member of an infected person
Treatment for Avian Flu
In most cases, treatment with antiviral medication such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza) can help reduce the severity of the disease. According to the experts, the medication must be taken within 48 hours after symptoms first appear. The virus that causes the human form of the flu can develop resistance to the two most common forms of antiviral medications, amantadine. and rimantadine (Flumadine). However, these medications should not be used to treat the disease.
Here are the treatments you should consider:
• Your family or others in close contact with you might also be prescribed antiviral as a preventive measure, even if they are not sick.
• You will be placed in isolation to avoid spreading the virus to others.
• Your doctor may place you on a breathing machine if you develop a severe infection.