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Bird Flu, Meaning and Prevention
Symptoms Of The Bird Flu, H5N1 Avian Influenza Virus
What is bird flu or avian bird flu? Is asian bird flu the same as bird flu?
Bird flu as the name suggests is a disease affecting birds. The terms avian flu or avian influenza are also used to refer to bird flu. In recent times, countries all over the globe have been very worried by a particular type of bird flu. The reason is because, this type (strain) of bird flu has proved that it is capable of spreading to human beings. The first cases of this bird flu were reported from certain countries in Asia like, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Thailand. The type of bird flu was therefore referred to as the 'asian bird flu'. In a couple of years, the term asian bird flu has become irrelevant as this bird flu has now spread to countries in Europe too.
Bird flu is therefore the same as avian bird flu or avian influenza. The term asian bird flu was used to denote the bird flu that recently originated in certain Asian countries, so Asian bird flu and bird flu denote the same thing.
What is the H5N1 avian bird flu virus?
At present, (early 2007) not many cases of human to human infections have been reported for the H5N1 avian bird flu virus. But medical experts are quick to point out that, there is a distinct possibility of the number of human to human infections for the H5N1 bird flu virus, increasing. The worrying part is that, medical advancement in terms of vaccinations for the prevention of the H5N1 avian flu virus or, medications for the treatment of this bird flu virus, have not kept pace with the rapid rate at which the bird flu virus has been spreading.
When we talk about the way in which way the H5N1 bird flu virus spreads, we will have to consider two aspects. The first would be the way in which this avian bird flu virus spreads among birds. The second aspect would be the way in which the H5N1 bird flu virus spreads to and among human beings. The fact that there have been cases reported of the spreading of the H5N1 virus among human beings, increases the danger posed by this avian bird flu virus. We will now discuss these two aspects in the paragraphs below.
Since the H5N1 is basically a type of virus that affects birds (avians), the process by which the virus spreads among birds is similar to how other bird viruses spread. A very interesting piece of information is that, many wild birds are infected by bird flu viruses. These avian (bird) influenza infections in wild birds does not seem to throw up any health problem for the infected wild birds. However it is domesticated birds like chickens, hens, turkeys etc that show serious illness when they get infected with these avian influenza viruses. Infected birds shed the bird influenza virus through saliva, nasal secretion and faeces. Domesticated birds like hens, chickens and turkeys have a low level of resistence to these avian influenza viruses and can become seriously ill if infected. Birds can get infected when they come into contact with the saliva, excretion or nasal secretion of other birds that are already infected with the H5N1 avian influenza virus.
The second aspect regarding the H5N1 bird flu virus is more worrying as, it concerns human beings. In recent years there have been several cases where, human beings coming into contact with infected birds have become infected. The spread of the H5N1 bird flu virus from bird to human, would be similar to the way in which this bird flu virus spreads from bird to bird. Most people infected with this avian influenza virus get critically ill and have a high mortality rate as so far been recorded. Fortunately, the number of cases where the H5N1 bird influenza virus has been transmitted from person to person have been very few. Scientists and medical experts are keeping a close watch on the behaviour of this bird flu virus and more information would be available in the near future.
What are the symptoms of bird flu, are avian bird flu symptoms easy to recognize?
The symptoms of bird flu among humans are very similar to the symptoms for an ordinary flu. Medical experts until now, had limited their health warning to countries affected by the bird influenza virus. People from the affected countries who had been in contact with live or dead poulty and developed flu symptoms, were advised to get medical attention. The situation has changed now and many countries are reporting cases of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus. For this reason, seek medical help if you have been close to live or dead poultry in any country and develop flu liks symptoms.
Get medical attention if you have the above symptoms. Many websites would advise you to seek medical attention if you have come in contact with live or dead poultry or other birds. This advise would also be given for people who have recently (in the past 7 days) visited a country affected by the bird flu. However, it is best to seek medical help every time you have the above symptoms. Provide your doctor with information regarding your travel or encounter with live or dead birds, make sure that you visit the doctor. The bird flu virus is now spreading across many countries, and it is best not to take a chance.
The symptoms of the H5N1 bird flu infection are quite similar to a normal flu. Given the fact that, medical research regarding the avian bird flu H5N1 virus infection is still at it's initial stages, it is best not to ignore any doubt or symptom that throws up. This will become all the more relevant if and when, the number of bird flu infections transmitted from human to human increases.
What are the causes of bird flu?
When we talk about the causes of bird flu, it could mean the cause of bird flu in birds and the cause of bird flu in human beings. We had mentioned above that the bird flu virus is very common among wild birds. These birds have a built in resistance and do not show any specific signs or symptoms after they are infected by the bird flu virus. The bad part is that, the nasal drip and other excrections from such birds contains the bird flu virus. When domesticated birds come into contact with such infected excretions, they get infected too. The domesticated birds are not able to resist the virus and get sick. Certain bird flu viruses like the H5N1 avian flu virus can prove fatal to domesticated birds. Commercial poultry farms can be quickly ruined if few of the birds get infected, this is because the bird flu virus can spread very rapidly.
The bird flu virus can also spread to human beings. The infection is transmitted from birds to human beings when a person comes into contact with a live or dead bird that, is infected with the avian bird flu virus. You could also get infected with the bird flu virus by coming into contact with the saliva, nasal drip or excretions of birds that are infected by the avian flu virus. The H5N1 bird flu virus has infected people in many countries and seems to be spreading all over the globe. There have been few cases where, the H5N1 avian flu virus has spread from one person to another. Medical experts are monitoring this development very closely as a large scale transmission of the bird flu virus from one person to another, could be disastrous.
How can avian bird flu be prevented?
Our discussion will cover ideas and tips to prevent a human being from being infected by the bird flu virus. If you have read the above paragraphs and understood how the avian bird flu virus infects humans, you will have a fairly good idea of the measures required to prevent the H5N1 bird flu virus from infecting human beings. It is quite obvious that, higher caution needs to be given if your profession or environment keeps you in close touch with birds. The group of people who have a high chance of being infected by the avian bird flu virus would be, those who actually breed poultry and other birds as a profession.
We have compiled a list of precautions that could help prevent the bird flu virus infection. As scientists gather additional knowledge regarding the H5N1 avian influenza virus, additional suggestions will surface from time to time. It is therefore necessary that you keep yourself updated regarding the movement of the bird flu virus.
If You Can Avoid Being Near Birds
Firstly, avoid places that bring you into close contact with wild or domesticated birds. We have already mentioned above, that many wild birds carry the bird flu virus infection but are themselves not affected by it. Such birds spread the virus to domesticated birds that do not have much body resistance to the bird flu virus. If your profession does not require you to be near birds, keep away from them. During times of high alert, birds in a zoo, the hundreds of birds at pigeon feeding squares etc, could all be carriers of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus. If you do visit such a place ensure that you have a thorough bath with lots of soap and water on reaching home. The birds infected with the bird flu virus could pass on the infection to you through their excretion, saliva or nasal drip. You can also get infected with the avian flu virus if you come in contact with bird cages, railings etc which have bird droppings or saliva from infected birds.
If You Must Be Near Birds
It might not be easy to keep away from birds if your work involves being near them. The following tips regarding the prevention of bird flu virus infection will be useful for those who need to work or live near birds. You should remember that, the possibility of being infected by the H5N1 bird flu virus or any other virus increases as a person gets closer to the physical area of contamination. The following suggestions will be very useful in decreasing the risk of infection, so spend some time reading and understanding them.
(a) Since you will be handling birds often, make sure that you follow instructions given by your local authorities regarding bird flu prevention measures. Because of the dangerous nature of the H5N1 avian influenza virus, most countries are providing detailed advise regarding the behaviour, nature and preventive measures.
(b) If you are breeding poultry or other domesticated birds, it is in your interest that the birds be protected from the bird flu virus. This is because the chances of you being infected by the avian bird flu virus increases when the birds you handle are infected with the virus. You should contact your local authorities and stay updated with measures necessary to reduce chances of the birds being infected with the bird flu virus.
(c) On coming across a dead bird, deal with the situation based on the information obtained in (a) above. This is important because in the case of certain birds (like wild ducks), authorities urge people to report even a single dead bird. Such birds present a high risk of bird flu virus infection and people are advised to immediately report the case and not attempt to destroy the dead bird by themselves. For other birds like parrots, it is quite possible that people will be expected to report the case only if 2-3 (or more) dead birds are found in the same vicinity.
(d) If you come across a dead bird that does not come under the high risk category, use the following process to handle and destroy the dead bird. It is not very easy to contract the avian bird flu virus, but the following procedure (mentioned below) should be followed to reduce or eliminate whatever risk exists.
Bird Flu Virus Infection, Handling A Dead Bird
(i) Remember that the avian influenza virus spreads through the excretion, nasal drip or saliva of the infected bird. Do not attempt to touch the dead bird with your bare hands, this should never be done under any circumstances.
(ii) Since you will most probably come across dead birds quite often, keep the following articles with you. A few pairs of disposable plastic gloves, cloth gloves should not be used. Using plastic gloves multiple times would result in the gloves having small ruptures or holes, making them useless to protect you against the avian flu virus. A few plastic bags of a size that can easily hold a bird, room should also be available for tying the plastic bag with the bird in it. Very thin plastic bags or very thin gloves will not offer a good protection against infection as they can be easily pierced.
(iii) Local authorities in many countries have now started issuing regular notices regarding the bird flu. Infomation could include names of specific bird types that could be infected with the bird flu virus. If the dead bird is of one such type, you might be expected to call the authorities and not handle the dead bird yourself. Follow the procedures recommended by the authorities. If the dead bird (type) you come across has no special warnings issues, follow the procedures mentioned below.
(iv) The basic idea is to avoid any part of your body or clothes from coming into direct contact with the dead bird. Use all measures possible to safely handle the dead bird, assume that the bird is infected with H5N1 virus. A good procedure would be to put your hand in the plastic bag (two bags used together would be better), then hold the dead bird. Turn the plastic bags inside out, the bird would now be in the plastic bag. Now tie the bag up firmly, put it in a second bag and once again tie the bag firmly. You could then dispose the packed bird in the main dustbin provided in your area. Having done this, get back home and have a thorough bath with lot's of running water and soap. The clothes, that you have worn during the process will need to be washed clean too.
The above information regarding the bird flu virus is not meant to replace medical diagnosis, treatment or advice. Human infections with the H5N1 bird influenza virus are fairly recent and medical experts are still struggling to find answers and treatments. The fact that this bird flu virus has spread to practically every continent also means that, more concrete and collective efforts will be made to find a cure. All would benefit from the sharing of information gained through research. It would indeed be a sad story if the pharmaceutical giants kept closely gaurded secrets regarding the bird flu virus. Looking at this problem for financial benefits would be selfish and disastrous.
If you have found this article to be useful or interesting, pass the link to your family, friends and collegues. It is our duty to share whatever knowledge and information we might have regarding this illness. If you are related to the poultry business in any way, ensure that the people who work for you are equally educated about the bird flu virus.
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