Avian Influenza

What is Avian Influenza?

Avian influenza is commonly known as bird flu and is an infection that spreads to birds and animals. These birds or animals can then infect human beings. The H5N1 is the most deadly strain of the bird flu and is present in many parts of Asia and in Egypt. This virus does not spread through human transmission. It is a deadly disease for humans and mammals that get infected from the birds. The most common carriers of this avian influenza type virus are the wild ducks. Since the disease has spread to many wild birds, pigs, etc it is quite a challenge to eradicate this disease.

Avian Influenza Symptoms

The virus is most contagious during the incubation time. It is the time where the host develops symptoms after getting infected. For humans, it is between 2 and 5 days.The signs and symptoms of this disease can be mild to severe and can include:

  • Sore throat
  • Hoarseness on the voice
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of energy and feeling generally ill
  • An upset stomach with/without diarrhoea
  • Pain in the belly
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Seizures and/or altered state of mind
  • Chest pain

A person may also feel typical avian flu symptoms but of a more serious nature like:

  • A fever of above 100.4-degree Fahrenheit
  • Muscle aches
  • A cough

A few people can also suffer from respiratory problems like breathlessness or even pneumonia. The condition of a person suffering from avian flu can deteriorate fast and can lead to death due to multiple organ failure.  

Who is at Risk?

The H5N1 virus can survive for a long period of time as the infected bird releases the virus for up to 10 days. These can be present in the saliva or the faeces of the bird and infect those who touch the contaminated surfaces. The risk of infection of this virus is high in:

  • Poultry farmers who deal with poultry animals and birds
  • People who have visited the affected areas
  • People who are exposed to birds that are infected with the virus
  • People who consume eggs or poultry that is not cooked properly
  • A health care professional who treats an infected person

Avian Influenza Causes

There are many types of bird flu but the H5N1 is the first bird flu virus to infect humans. The first avian flu outbreak happened in 1997 and was due to handling poultry that was infected by the virus.

  • This virus is commonly found in the wild waterfowl and can spread easily to other poultry. The disease can then be transmitted to humans by touching the secretions from the mouth, eyes, nose, or through faeces and is an avian influenza cause.
  • The eggs or poultry from an infected bird transmits the virus only if it is undercooked. The safe cooking temperature for meat is 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Bird dropping may have the H5N1 and hence feed, equipment, clothing, shoes, water, etc can carry this virus, and touching these can cause infection.

How is Avian Influenza Diagnosed?

One of the most useful diagnostic tests for identifying avian influenza is the RT-PCR primer and proof test. This avian influenza test checks for the Asian lineage virus. The results of this test are available in about 4 hours. If this is not available then the following tests are done:

  • An auscultation test where abnormal breathing sounds are detected.
  • A blood test is done to check the White blood cells
  • A chest x-ray is done to determine if there is any problem with the lungs.
  • A culture of the nasal secretion is done to check for the growth of the virus
  • Tests are done to check the functioning of the heart, liver, and kidneys.

The avian influenza is a rare disease and a physician will not expect it unless the person is in contact with the birds or has stayed in a place where there is an outbreak. It is essential to tell the doctor about this during avian influenza diagnosis.

How is Avian Influenza Treated?

As per the World Health Organization, WHO the best treatment for this disease is antiviral medications. This avian influenza medicine can stop the virus from multiplying and also improve the outlook. Other treatments are:

  • Medication is highly effective when it is given within 2 days of the symptoms developing as it can prevent mortality.
  • Careful consideration of the dosage should be done especially when giving it to children and people with kidney problems.
  • A longer course may be given to those who have weak immunity and/or are ill.
  • The medicine may have to be given as an IV for those who have gastro problems with diarrhoea and vomiting.

The case can get easily complicated leading to multiple organ failure and hence should be diagnosed and treated properly. Consult our specialists at carefit to get the most effective treatment and care for avian influenza.

How can Avian Influenza be Prevented?

Some of the avian influenza prevention measures are:

  • Taking a flu shot to prevent infection from the human strain of this disease.
  • Avoid contact with infected birds
  • Avoid open-air markets
  • Cook poultry and eggs properly
  • Follow proper hygiene by washing hands
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