Avian flu, also known as avian influenza is more commonly referred to as to bird flu. Avian flu is actually an influenza caused by viruses adapted to birds. This type of influenza is an infection caused by avian influenza A viruses. Avian flu is extremely contagious among birds and some types of this virus can affect even the domestic animals such as chickens, ducks, and turkeys. The virus spreads between birds through the saliva, nasal secretions and feces. Domesticated birds commonly catch the virus through the contact with infected water or surfaces, and the virus among them develops in two main forms: as low pathogenic or highly pathogenic. The former is more serious and spreads rapidly affecting the multiple internal organs and leading to death within 48 hours.
How do humans become infected?
The avian influenza viruses usually do not affect humans. However, there are some confirmed cases of human infection from a number of different subtypes of avian influenza, since 1997. In most of the cases, humans become infected in contact with contaminated poultry or secretions from infected birds. The spreading of the infection from one person to another happens extremely rarely and usually among people with a very weak immune system.
Humans are at the highest risk of avian flu during the outbreak of avian influenza among poultry. Human influenza A viruses are those subtypes of influenza A virus that have spread widely among humans, including H3N2 and H1N1 influenza A subtypes, and H2N2 influenza A that was active during the 1960s.
Symptoms of avian flu in humans
Symptoms of avian influenza in humans include typical symptoms of influenza. Some people will have very mild symptoms, as the severity of them depends on the strain of the virus causing the infection. Infection usually includes symptoms like the fever, cough, sore throat, aches in the muscles, headache, general fatigue, diarrhea and similar.
Prevention of avian flu
The best way to prevent the infection is to get a vaccine, which provides the protection against one strain of H5N1 bird flu virus. People traveling to Southeast Asia or to other regions with avian flu outbreaks, should follow a few simple public health recommendations. The first and most important is to avoid domesticated birds, rural areas, small farms and open-air markets. People should wash their hands on a regular basis and use alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing at least 60 percent alcohol. A regular flu shot can help to reduce the risk of simultaneous infection with bird and human flu viruses, which may be a very serious health concern.
Other health recommendations include cooking the poultry until the juices run clear, at a high temperature, avoiding foods containing raw or undercooked eggs, and carefully washing utensils and cutting boards that have been exposed to raw poultry.