Bird Flu

Dr. Ira Shah
Bird Flu - Patient Education
What is Bird Flu ?
Bird Flu is an infection caused by one type of influenza virus called as Influenza A (H5N1) virus. Influenza virus is known to cause epidemics every few years. At present, there is now a threat of an epidemic in humankind by the bird flu virus.

This virus is predominantly known to infect birds (avians) especially poultry and chickens and causes death within a day of infection in them. However, now with increase mutations, humans are also known to get infected and complications and death due to this virus in humans is high.

Which countries are affected by Bird Flu ?
Bird Flu was first reported in 1997 in Hong Kong and this infection has now spread over 20 countries around the globe. Outbreaks have been reported in Thailand, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia, India (Maharashtra) and countries of European Union. 20 human deaths have been reported with the recent reported in Indonesia due to this disease.

How does Bird Flu spread ?
Influenza in humans spreads by inhaling infected droplets containing poultry feces or by direct contact with infected bird. Human to human transmission is rare. There is no risk related to eating or preparing cooked poultry products.

What are the symptoms of Bird Flu ?
The symptoms of bird flu in humans are initially non-specific. Patients may present with high fever, muscle pain, cough, sore throat and diarrhea. On progression of the disease, there may be breathlessness and X-rays show pneumonia. These patients may then have multisystem failure and kidney and liver shutdown. Thus bird flu in humans should be considered in all patients with severe respiratory disease in areas with poultry affection particularly in patients who had contact with the poultry.

How is the diagnosis of bird flu made ?
Diagnosis of bird flu can be established by isolating the virus or by other tests from the throat of patients.

What is the treatment for bird flu ?
Treatment should be started as early as possible. Whenever feasible, patients should be hospitalized and kept in isolation. Oxygen and antibiotics should be given. Certain antiviral drugs such as Oseltamivir and Zanamivir are useful and should be given as early as possible, once infection is proved. Since resistance to these drugs is now occurring, misuse and unnecessary prescriptions should be avoided.

How can bird flu be prevented ?
Persons who had a possible exposure to infected poultry should be given Oseltamivir under a doctor's guidance. Travelers to areas with avian influenza activity should be immunized with available human influenza vaccine preferably 2 weeks before traveling. Direct contact with poultry and touching surfaces contaminated with poultry stools or secretions should be avoided. Avoid ingestion of undercooked eggs or undercooked poultry foods.

Bird Flu Bird Flu 08/01/2015
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