Bird Flu, a Potential Pandemic of the 21st Century and Treatment

Bird flu is is an infection caused by avian (bird) influenza (flu)  (H5N1) viruses. These flu viruses occur naturally among migratory waterfowl – most notably wild ducks. However, bird flu can spread from wild fowl to domestic poultry including chickens, ducks, turkeys and then to humans.

Those who contact with infected birds or bird droppings have a high risk to catch bird flu. Infection may be spread simply by touching contaminated surfaces. People don’t catch the virus from eating fully cooked chicken or eggs. However, one can transmit the virus to another but only after close personal contact.

The first case of avian influenza virus to infect humans occurred in Hong Kong in 1997. Bird flu epidemics have occurred worldwide. When a human comes in contact with a bird that is infected with H5N1 and the human contracts the virus there is an over 50% chance of death for the individual. As of February 27, 2007 the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported 275 cases and 167 people have died across the world.

Symptoms of avian flu infection in human change every year and depend on the strain of virus. Symptoms may start out as normal flu-like symptoms which might include:

•        Cough (dry or productive)
•        Diarrhea
•        Difficulty breathing
•        Fever greater than 100.4°F (38°C)
•        Headache
•        Malaise
•        Muscle aches
•        Runny nose
•        Sore throat

But it may become a severe respiratory disease that can be fatal.

There are various types of treatment of avian flu virus depending on different symptoms. In general, taking the antiviral medication oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza) may make the disease less. The persons who live in the same house as those diagnosed with avian flu may also be prescribed with  Oseltamivir.

If an H5N1 outbreak occurs, it is recommended the antiviral medicines amantadine and rimantadine should not be used because the virus that causes human avian flu appears to be resistant to these medication. Persons with avian flu should be put in isolation. People with severe infection may need the support with a breathing machine.

To prevent being infected with avian flu, people should:
•    Use protective clothing and special breathing masks when working with  birds.
•    Avoiding undercooked or uncooked meat
•    Avoid visits to live-bird markets in areas with an avian flu outbreak

Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.

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