Bird flu is the name given for a certain strain of the influenza virus that is generally present only in birds but can sometimes be transmitted to humans, further causing a serious illness.
Bird flu tends to be carried by wild birds, which are not generally symptomatic from the virus and given to domestic birds, like chickens, turkeys, and ducks.
Domestic birds tend to get either a very mild illness with some symptoms or a very serious illness causing death within days. The virus is very contagious among birds and is transmitted by their respiratory secretions, saliva, and feces.
Humans can get this disease by coming in contact with infected birds or contaminated surfaces, like chicken coops and cages.
The virus is not thought to be contagious from person to person. The virus is not passed to humans through undercooked poultry meat or eggs.
Who is at risk of Bird Flu?
Anyone having a close contact with birds has the potential to be infected with bird flu. In particular:
- Poultry farmers
- Poultry handlers and processors
- Guests to poultry farms or petting zoos
To prevent bird flu:
- If you are in an area where bird flu is a risk, protect yourself by practicing good hand hygiene.
- If you will be handling birds known or thought be infected, protect yourself with gloves, goggles, a medical gown, shoe covers, and a mask designed for very small particles, like a tuberculosis mask.
- There are some people who knows about transmission of bird flu between humans, but to be on the safe side, do not allow secretions, sneezing, or coughing to contaminate other humans, particularly children, the elderly, and the immunocompromised.
Signs and Symptoms of Bird Flu
Bird Flu causes a flu-like illness.
Mild symptoms of bird flu include:
- Feeling generally weak and achy (malaise)
- Sore throat
More severe symptoms of bird flu include:
- Respiratory failure
Treatments Your Physician May Prescribe for Bird Flu
There is no specific treatment available for bird flu. Some medications (antivirals) that are used to treat human influenza may be helpful for patients with bird flu, but for both, these medications are designed to shorten the duration and severity of symptoms the illness must run its course.
The earlier in the course of illness these drugs are started, the better. If one person in a family gets suffered from bird flu, the other family members should possibly receive an antiviral in order to protect against illness (however at this time the disease is not thought to be contagious person to person).
There is a specific vaccine for one strain of bird flu the vaccine will be made available to the public in the event of an outbreak. The human influenza vaccine that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention make public every year does not protect against bird flu.