What is Avian Flu and Causes of Avian Flu

 By: Peter Hutch
The avian flu that has affected birds and people in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East, is different from the flu that many people get during the cold-weather months. Poultry — like chickens and turkeys — tend to get infected with the bird flu by migrating waterfowl (like ducks, geese, and swans), and spread it to other birds through their infected feces, saliva, or secretions.

Avian influenza is flu infection in birds. The disease is of concern to humans, who have no immunity against it. The virus that causes this infection in birds can mutate (change) to easily infect humans. Such mutation can start a deadly worldwide epidemic.

Avian Flu Causes

The ABCs of influenza viruses

Influenza viruses are divided into three types (strains) of viruses — influenza A, B and C. Type A is responsible for the deadly influenza pandemics. Type B can lead to smaller, more localized outbreaks. Less common and more stable than other strains, type C has milder symptoms. Either types A or B can cause the flu that circulates almost every winter.

Farmers and other people working with poultry, as well as travelers visiting affected countries, have a higher risk for getting the bird flu. Handling an infected bird can cause infection. People who eat raw or undercooked poultry meat are also at an increased risk for avian influenza. Highly infective avian flu viruses, such as H5N1, have been shown to survive in the environment for long periods of time, and infection may be spread simply by touching contaminated surfaces. Birds who recover from the flu can continue to shed the virus in their feces and saliva for as long as 10 days.

Symptoms and Signs

The incubation period ranges from 1 to 4 days with an average of about 48 h. In mild cases, many symptoms are like those of a common cold (eg, sore throat, rhinorrhea); mild conjunctivitis may also occur. Typical influenza in adults is characterized by the sudden onset of chills, fever, prostration, cough, and generalized aches and pains (especially in the back and legs).

Viral pneumonia

Acute respiratory distress — the most common cause of bird flu-related deaths

Flu symptoms make you feel miserable. Learn more about the main flu symptoms so you can treat these early on. Also, find out when to call the doctor about flu symptoms.

Avian Flu Treatment

It's possible that antiviral medicines used to treat other types of flu may be effective in treating bird flu in humans. There is currently no vaccine to prevent bird flu in humans. Scientists are working on developing a vaccine, but it's difficult because the virus frequently mutates (changes).

The main drug in the treatment of bird flu is Tamiflu.

The drug of choice in case of an outbreak of bird flu is Tamiflu. Tamiflu has been stockpiled by governments in readiness for the possibility of a bird flu pandemic.
Treatment

For now, the primary treatment option remains the flu drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu), which works by preventing the virus from multiplying. It's not clear how effective Tamiflu will prove against H5N1. Another antiviral flu drug, zanamivir (Relenza), may be an alternative. However, viruses may become resistant to both of these drugs.
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