Definition: Defining the Meaning of Avian Influenza
Avian influenza, known informally as avian flu or bird flu, refers to influenza caused by viruses adapted to birds. The version with the greatest concern is highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). "Bird flu" is a phrase similar to "swine flu," "dog flu," "horse flu," or "human flu" in that it refers to an illness caused by any of many different strains of influenza viruses that have adapted to a specific host. All known viruses that cause influenza in birds belong to the species influenza A virus. All subtypes (but not all strains of all subtypes) of influenza A virus are adapted to birds, which is why for many purposes avian flu virus is the influenza A virus.
When bird flu hit most Asian countries, it prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to urge China to test its wild birds, particularly geese that migrate from its waters during the harsh winter. The disease spread so fast from one bird to another that about 5,000 birds were killed in one season. People who have close or direct contact to infected poultry can contract the disease after coming in contact with bird secretions or feces.
Although many are divided on the possibility of direct human to human transmission of the virus, this possibility has not been ruled out. Viruses, in general, are known to mutate. In the case of bird flu, family members infected with it may show different severity of symptoms, prompting a misdiagnosis. Also, if a person who has the common flu becomes infected with bird flu at the same time, it can lead to the mutation of the bird flu virus.
At the University of Leicester in Great Britain, it was discovered that a full-blown bird flu pandemic could cause an 80% mortality rate. A team led by Karl Nicholson is developing the bird flu vaccine with the goal of decreasing the fatality should a fourth major pandemic occur. In the last century, there have been three recorded major pandemics: the Spanish Flu in 1918, the Asian Flu in 1957 and the Hong Kong Flu in 1968. In total, the three pandemics claimed at least 20 million people.
What is Avian Influenza or Bird Flu
Bird Flu, also known as avian influenza, is a virus carried primarily by birds, as well as certain mammals. There are actually 144 different strands of the virus, with varying intensity in symptoms and contagiousness. However, one strand in particular, H5N1, has caused widespread panic, as it has not only been transmitted to humans, but caused a mortality rate of over 50%.
The details of bird flu are very technical and somewhat difficult to understand to the average person. Influenza, in general, is grouped into one of three categories: A, B, and C.
Avian influenza is considered type A. Under category A, there are 16 H subtypes and 9 N subtypes. There are basically two variations of the virus among all the subtypes, a low pathogenic form, which is rather mild, and a high pathogenic form, which is considerably more harsh. To date, only H5 and H7 variations of the virus are highly pathogenic.
Although there are numerous strands of the virus, only a couple have ever been known to seriously harm humans. Although bird flu was first identified in the early 1900's, the strand to cause the most concern recently, H5N1, first came to pass in 1997 in Hong Kong. In the current outbreak, there have been 100 people infected with the virus in Asia, and over half did not survive.
Bird Flu has symptoms typical of regular flu strands. These include, fever, sore throat, cough, conjunctivitis, and possibly pneumonia, in severe cases. However, with H5N1, these symptoms become severe and often lead to death.
The major concern with H5N1 is the possibility of the virus starting a pandemic.
This may occur when a new virus emerges, it causes serious illness in humans, and is easily spread among humans. With bird flu, the first two conditions have already been met. H5N1 is a new virus to humans, although it has previously been found in poultry; it also causes serious illness in humans, as it has led to the death of over half of the 100 people infected by it. However, at this point, the third criteria has not been met. Bird flu is predominantly passed from fowl to humans, not human to human. Many people believe it is just a matter of time before the virus mutates to the point human transmission is possible. At that point, it will spread like wildfire throughout the world.
How Bird Flu Differs From Regular Flu
There are three types of influenza viruses: A, B, and C. Of these, type A is further classified into subtypes, H and N. Type A affects people and numerous animals, while B and C typically affect humans only. Each type varies in severity, with A being the most dangerous, then B, and C being the least severe.
Bird flu is of the A type of influenza virus, one of more severe types. While several subtypes and strains exist, H5N1 is the most widely known and feared form of bird flu.
One of the primary differences of bird flu and the other types of the influenza virus is the way it is transmitted. Other strains of the flu virus, common among humans, are passed from human to human through saliva and mucus. This is done through sneezing, coughing, or breathing on or near someone. H5N1, on the other hand, is only transmitted from poultry to humans, and is done so through direct contact with the animals or their feces.
Another difference between the regular flu virus and H5N1 is the availability of a vaccine. The regular flu has been an irritant to people for some time. As a result, steps were taken long ago to challenge the virus and lessen the impact it had on people. Every year, people go in droves to receive a flu vaccine to avoid the virus. However, a vaccine has not been developed for the mutated form of bird flu that is to come. The reason for this is multifaceted. One reason is the lengthy development process. H5N1 has been a serious threat to humans for less than two years, since the outbreak of the virus began in Vietnam in January of 2004. Therefore, there has not been significant time to research and create a vaccine for the virus. Also, little purpose lies in creating a vaccine for the current strain of H5N1, as the real threat will come when the virus mutates. A vaccine that is developed now will be useless when mutation occurs, at which point a vaccine will really be needed. So, the virus must first be allowed to mutate and only then can an effective vaccine be developed.
The other variation between bird flu and other flu strains is the severity of the symptoms. While symptoms of sneezing, coughing, sore throat and fever are similar, the symptoms easily become severe in cases of bird flu.
Every year, you probably go to your doctor to get a flu shot, or perhaps you take your chances with the virus and just hope you do not end up in bed. However, the new bird flu that has made so much news lately is considerably different than the regular flu we are accustomed to dealing with.
The regular flu has a myriad of symptoms, including fever, cough, sore throat, headache, body aches, fatigue, nasal congestion, and sneezing. Many people will recover from the virus within a couple of weeks; however, others will develop pneumonia, bronchitis, or other life-threatening complications. Chronic disorders are also sometimes aggravated by the flu, causing complications as well. Although such complications are possible, they usually do not lead to death unless the carrier is already in poor health. Healthy people may suffer with the flu, but will rarely have any lasting effects or die as a result of contracting the virus.
Bird flu, on the other hand, is a very different ailment. There are actually several strands of avian influenza. Many of the various kinds are not harmful to humans; however, one in particular has caused a great deal of controversy recently. H5N1 is a strand of bird flu that has arisen in Asia, which has resulted in the death of over half of the people that contracted it.
The two viruses are similar in that they are both influenza viruses. They also show similar symptoms of fever, cough, sore throat, etc., as detailed above. The primary difference in the two strands is the impact of the illness on humans that contract it. The regular flu is usually only lethal to those in very poor health, while the bird flu takes the lives of almost all that become infected.
Another difference is how the viruses are spread. The regular flu virus is usually transmitted in droplets of saliva and mucus as infected people sneeze or touch objects that other people later come in contact with. However, avian influenza is not passed from human to human, but through direct contact with infected fowl or their feces.
The regular flu is common in the United States, as is the vaccine. However, the bird flu is currently only being identified in Asia. Although many people think within a short period of time it will spread worldwide.
Facts About Bird Flu
Bird flu was first identified in the early 1900's and has since spread worldwide. Also known as avian influenza, this virus has caused considerable concern due to the mutation of a particular strain of the disease. Although this virus previously only infected birds and other types of animals, namely pigs, since 1997, it has also been known to infect humans.
The strain of the disease to cause so much concern is H5N1. These are simply numbers and letters that represent the subtype of this particular strain, 1 of 144 influenza subtypes. Not only has the virus caused an epidemic in poultry, but it has recently been feared to be leading to a pandemic, or worldwide epidemic, in humans.
While the virus was first identified in humans in 1997, it was not until 2004 that the spread became of great concern. At that time, a major outbreak occurred in Vietnam and Thailand, which spread to ten countries and regions of Asia within weeks and caused the death of 23 people. Within three months the outbreak was contained after the slaughter of tens of millions of potentially infected birds. However, the damage was already done and the virus had spread across Asia to lead to additional outbreaks. Since that time, H5N1 has spread throughout Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, and a low pathogenic form of the virus was identified in Canada on November 19, 2005. Currently, 131 humans have been infected with the virus, resulting in 68 deaths. However, it is feared this number will only increase with the ongoing spread of the disease.
Why Is Bird Flu Of Such Concern
An outbreak of Bird Flu in Asia may seem like it would have little impact on our daily lives; yet many people have become obsessed with the disease. Is it possible there may be more than meets the eye with bird flu
The primary concern surrounding H5N1 is its mutation and ability to infect humans. As of yet, the virus has been spread from poultry to humans, and human to human transmission has only been suspected but not confirmed. Once the virus mutates further, it will easily be passed through humans, causing the disease to spread rapidly. Influenza pandemics, or worldwide epidemics, have caused a great number of deaths in the past. This is the ultimate concern with the mutation and spread of H5N1.
At this time, the primary cause of infection has been due to the consumption or handling of diseased poultry. Unfortunately, there have been a very few cases that were not easily explained, and therefore, human to human transmission was suspected. However, this has not been confirmed in any of the cases of H5N1 infection.
A particular strand of the virus, H5N1, has been contracted by several humans, over 100 people, and led to the death of over half of those infected. Since most of the types of this virus only affect birds and some other animals, it was of concern when people started contracting the disease in the first place. Likewise, when so many people died as a result, concern was replaced with apprehension. Now, however, an even larger crisis may be at hand.
With the increase in the spread of the virus, many are worried that a pandemic will start as a result - basically a global plague sweeping across the world.
For a pandemic to occur, three things must take place: a new virus must emerge, it causes serious illness in humans, and is easily spread among humans.
The first two on this list have already taken place. This strand of the virus is new to humans and it causes very serious illness among those infected. However, because the virus has primarily been passed from birds to humans, and not by human to human contact, the third condition has not yet been fulfilled.
The concern is that, because the virus is infecting humans, it will mutate to the point that human transmission takes place on a wide scale. The more people it infects, the more opportunity it has to mutate. If this should happen, containing the disease will be almost impossible. Also, because there is little available in the way of treatment, many people will die as a result.
Many Americans are not concerned because the outbreaks have only occurred in Asia at this point. However, even in Asia, the virus is spreading rapidly. Also, with international travel so commonplace, once human transmission is possible, the virus will know no bounds, especially not geographically. Much like AIDS, it will devastate the world, consuming people of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds.
How The Bird Flu Virus Lives And Spreads
First, it should be understood that bird flu is much like the other strains of influenza. Like the flu that goes around every year, bird flu is transmitted from the exchange of the virus through droplets of saliva, mucus, or other excretions. However, bird flu is not transmitted from human contact, but through the handling or ingestion of infected poultry. It is more common for people to be impacted by bird flu that handle birds for agricultural purposes or eat infected fowl that is not properly handled.
The virus lives within poultry and survives in the feces of the animal for several days, if not weeks. Therefore, regular contact with birds, especially in dense populations, increases the possibility of contracting the disease. To avoid infection, limit contact with potentially dangerous poultry.
It should also be clear that this particular virus was not always a threat to humans. Prior to 1997, there were no known cases of H5N1, the deadly strain of bird flu, infecting humans. Since the virus first came to pass in the early 1900's, it has mutated and transformed into a different form. This mutation is vital to the ongoing vitality of influenza and is the primary source for the concern surrounding H5N1. The virus continually manipulates itself to bypass treatment techniques and survive in varying environments.
Once the virus is transmitted to a person, it is incredibly interesting what takes place. There are two factors within the immune system that contribute to the devastation of the virus. First, the virus causes an exaggerated response in cytokines, hormones that regulate the immune system. This increase makes the immune system unstable and actually has a negative effect on the body itself, as well as making fighting infection difficult. Secondly, other aspects of the immune system are suppressed, allowing the virus to run rampant within the body.
Since the virus is not bacterial in nature, antibiotics are ineffective in treating the disease. In many illnesses, antibiotics are administered, which suppress the immune system and fight the infection; however, this is not an option due to the nature of bird flu; therefore, the most effective treatment is prevention.
Why Bird Flu Is Not Yet A Pandemic
Most people are aware of the threat of bird flu and the possibility of it creating a pandemic, a worldwide epidemic of an infectious disease breaking out and affecting a large geographic region. Although the virus affects an extensive geographic region, this virus has not yet reached pandemic proportions.
According to the World Health Organization, in order for a pandemic to occur, three conditions must be met: the emergence of a disease new to a population, the agent affects humans and causes serious illness, and the agent spreads easily and sustainably among humans.
The first of these three, "the emergence of a disease new to a population" has occurred. Although bird flu is in no way a new disease, as it was first identified in the early 1900's, it was not infectious to humans until the late 1990's. Therefore, this particular strain has emerged "new to a population", being the human population, which was previously unaffected by the disease.
Likewise, the second criterion has been met, "the agent affects humans and causes serious illness". The virus has infected 131 people and killed 68. Therefore, the severity of the disease is apparent. H5N1 causes an exaggerated response in cytokines, hormones that regulate the immune system, therefore, limiting the effectiveness of the body's ability to fight the infection. This virus is also partially resistant to other cells of the immune system, making it especially resilient.
The third condition has not been met, however. At this point, the virus does not spread easily and sustainably among humans. Currently, the H5N1 virus is only transmitted from poultry to humans, and is not able to pass through human contact. Unfortunately, the virus is mutating and may be able to do so in future months, increasing the speed and efficiency in which it spreads.
Human to human transmission has been suspected, though not confirmed. Several isolated cases in which the cause of infection was not clear have prompted questions of the virus being passed through human contact. In particular, cases of nurses becoming infected after treating patients, children being infected with no poultry contact, and parents being infected after treating children with the disease. However, until confirmation is attainable that the virus has mutated to the point human transmission is possible, the third criterion will not be satisfied and H5N1 will not be classified as a pandemic. Likewise, the fatality rate will also have to increase to change the classification of bird flu.
Risk Areas for Bird Flu Outbreaks
The first outbreak of the deadly strain of bird flu in humans was in Hong Kong in 1997. A major outbreak then occurred in January of 2004 in Vietnam and Thailand that resulted in the virus popping up in most of Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Recently, a low pathogenic form of H5N1, the dangerous form of bird flu, surfaced in Canada. From this, it may be assumed that southern parts of North America, South America, and other countries distanced from Asia are safe. However, with the track record of this virus, that may not be the case.
Without a doubt, the area of greatest risk for Bird Flu currently is Vietnam, where the largest number of infections and death has occurred. Any area in Asia with a large poultry population, from farming or agriculture, is at risk, as consuming infected meat has been a primary cause of becoming infected. On the same note, many countries in Asia, Europe, and recently the Middle East, should be concerned with the possibility of ingested infected poultry. As migratory birds may also carry the disease, it may be extend over widespread areas as well as from agricultural sources.
Likewise, considering the rapid spread of bird flu, the case in Canada should be of concern for residents of North America as well; in less than two years, Asia and Europe were consumed with the disease. Although the case in Canada was a low pathogenic form of H5N1, meaning it is less dangerous, the fact that it made its way to the continent should not be taken lightly and the possibility of the virus spreading south is a very serious threat.
As long as bird flu is being transmitted from poultry to humans, and not from human to human contact, the areas of concern will surround large poultry populations, from wild or agricultural birds. However, if the strain mutates and is passed from human to human, the risk area will grow rapidly and be concentrated in places with high or dense populations. Likewise, areas of particular concern will be those with limited medical care. Areas with advanced medicine that may be able to produce a vaccine may not be as devastated by the mutated strain of the virus.
Risks of Catching Bird Flu
With bird flu being on every television station and newspaper, it is easy to get caught up in the panic surrounding this new viral outbreak. However, do you find yourself wondering if this should really be a concern? So, what are your real chances of catching bird flu
It is not very likely for you to catch bird flu right now. Of course, they key to this statement is "right now". Currently, an outbreak of bird flu is occurring in Asia. Over 100 people have contracted the virus and over half have died. Also, as of yet, the virus can only be transmitted to humans from infected birds. Therefore, when a person becomes infected, they can not pass the virus on to others. However, change may be on the horizon.
Many experts believe, within time, the bird flu virus will mutate and be able to be passed from human to human. This is actually a likely occurrence, as influenza strands are known for their adaptability. With every human the virus infects, it becomes more likely to transform. When this happens, the numbers affected by bird flu will increase exponentially.
Even with limited means of being transmitted, avian influenza, or bird flu, has spread across Asia rapidly. Imagine how quickly it will affect the various parts of the world, once it is carried by humans over oceans, in planes and on boats. Densely populated areas will see the worst part of the virus, as close human contact is a breeding ground for disease.
Interestingly enough, this is not the first time an influenza virus threatened massive death. In 1918, the Spanish Flu killed 50 to 100 million people; in 1957, the Asian Flu killed 1 to 1.5 million; and in 1969, the Hong Kong Flu killed roughly 1 million people. Considering this seems to happen every few years, is it that far fetched it could be on its way again? Is history repeating itself? The answer can only be answered in time. If the virus does not mutate, everyone could all worked up over nothing. However, if it does and a pandemic occurs as expected, up to 30% of the world's population could be infected.
How Do Humans Become Infected With Bird Flu
The infection process with bird flu is not particularly complicated. As with other strains of influenza, the virus itself is passed from host to host, although bird flu is not transmitted from human contact like other strains of the flu. However, people should still be knowledgeable of how bird flu is contracted to avoid it as much as possible.
Currently, the primary way humans become infected with the disease is through contact with infected animals or their feces. The virus is transmitted through bodily excretions, such as saliva, nasal secretions, and feces or through contact with contaminated surfaces. In many of the regions where outbreaks have occurred, people, poultry and pigs live in very close contact, therefore, increasing the likelihood of transmitting the disease.
Especially in agricultural arenas, virus transmission occurs more frequently to humans. The reason for this is the necessity of handling fowl for feeding, medical care, and slaughter. People will often handle birds and not properly sanitize their hands and clothing afterward. Also, because fowl are usually kept in small areas for farming purposes, the disease spreads easily and feces accumulates quickly, also increasing human contact with potentially dangerous excretions. The virus lives on contaminated surfaces for several days, which also increases infection probability.
Another way of infection is by ingesting infected poultry that was not cooked properly. It is always suggested to fully cook any meat you are preparing for yourself or your family to eliminate bacteria and harmful viruses. When cooking poultry, you should cook the meat to a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit or 74 degrees Celsius to ensure its safety. Especially in the cases of infection in children, ingesting contaminated food is believed to be the primary cause because children handling fowl is considerably less common in the areas where outbreaks have occurred. This is of particular concern as children have a higher mortality rate than adults. As with most infectious diseases, it has more of a negative effect of the weak: the very young and very old.
With time, people fear the virus will mutate to a form transmittable from human to human. If this occurs, infection will occur as with the regular flu strain. The virus will spread through saliva and mucus contact through sneezing, coughing, or breathing in close vicinity of others. With mutation, the virus will spread with much more ease through human populations, possibly causes massive illness and death.
How To Lower Your Risk Of Catching Flu and Bird Flu
Influenza is in no way a new ailment to plague the people of the world. However, a new deadly strand of the virus has everyone running for cover. How do you avoid catching flu, including the dangerous bird flu that threatens so many
First, it should be explained that bird flu, also known as avian influenza, is a virus much like the regular flu we are accustomed to. It is transmitted in much the same way, through droplets of saliva and mucus. However, bird flu is currently only transmitted from infected birds to humans and can not be passed from human to human like the regular flu. The main concern arises with bird flu as it is expected to mutate and at some point be transmitted by humans as well. Until this takes place, bird flu is only passed from infected birds to humans by way of direct contact with the animal or its feces.
The current outbreak of bird flu is taking place in Asia; therefore, there is little concern of catching the virus unless you are in that region and handling fowl. However, once the virus mutates it will be transmitted much like the standard flu and may be avoided in much the same way.
The obvious first step in lowering your risk of catching the virus is being administered a vaccine. There is currently not a vaccine for the dangerous strand of influenza, but one is being developed. With any luck one will be produced prior to any widespread contamination of the virus.
Another option is one utilized in most regular flu cases - taking antiviral medication, such as Tamiflu. These are expected to be effective on the dangerous strand of influenza as well as the regular flu virus. However, for this treatment to be useful, it must be administered early in the virus, typically within two days of showing symptoms. This and other drugs do not cure the virus, but instead lessen the effects of the symptoms. They may, however, prevent the virus from becoming severe.
The most effective way to avoid catching the flu, the regular flu as well as the bird flu, is prevention. Proper hygiene reduces the risk of the spread of influenza. Simple things, like washing your hands and avoiding close contact with sick people, may be your best technique in lowering your risk of becoming infected. Utilizing hand sanitizer is also a useful option.
Vaccines for Bird Flu and Other Types of Flu
Vaccines have become a common and widely accepted way of dealing with various viral infections. Unfortunately, this is not yet a valid option for bird flu.
The primary reason an effective vaccine has not been developed for the strain of bird flu causing so much concern is simply lack of time. The process of vaccine development is long and arduous. The virus must be researched on a molecular level in order to create an effective vaccine. Although bird flu was first identified in 1997, the real concern for the disease did not come about until 2004, with the first real outbreak of the virus. Therefore, less than two years has been available to research and develop a vaccine. While vaccines have been developed, they are still in trial phases and hope to be complete soon.
To understand the other significant reasoning, you must first understand a little about bird flu and the threat it carries. As of yet, the virus is not a global, imminent concern. The reason for this is that the virus is now only transmittable through poultry and is not passed through human to human contact. Although many people have died, it is still primarily an Asian and European disease and has not reached pandemic proportions. However, that is likely to change soon.
As time goes on, the virus is mutating and is expected to become transmittable through human contact. When this happens, it will very likely spread quickly and devastatingly throughout all regions of the world.
Therefore, the second reason a vaccine has not yet been developed is due to the mutation of the virus. As of yet, the concern regarding the virus is not as drastic as it will be once mutation is complete. If mutation occurs, a vaccine will be essential to control the spread of the virus. However, a vaccine can not be developed to avoid the new version of the virus until it actually mutates. Any vaccine created before then will be useless on the mutated form of the virus as the molecular basis of the disease will change, altering the effectiveness of a vaccine.
It is believed that much of the groundwork has been completed for the mutated virus vaccine, but until mutation occurs, there will be no way of knowing its effectiveness.
Can A Respirator or Mask Help Against Bird Flu
Surgical masks and respirators are forms of personal protective equipment used to guard against the spread of infectious diseases. With the increased onset of bird flu, many manufacturers and distributors of various protective equipment have touted incredible results from the use of their products. Do they hold water? Do these respirators and masks actually protect against bird flu
For many years, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended the use of various forms personal protective equipment to safeguard against spreading diseases. Of these are surgical masks. These masks are manufactured to block the passage of tiny particles such as the influenza virus and keep the particles from reaching the eyes, mouth, and nose of the wearer, therefore preventing infection.
However, all masks are not developed to guard against infection. Masks for healthcare use are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which ensures certain standards and criteria are met by all personal protective equipment. Therefore, if a mask is FDA approved, you can be assured the mask protects against the spread of infection. However, if a mask is not approved by the FDA, you should consider purchasing a different type.
Many manufactures are specifically guaranteeing bird flu protection; it should be understood that the FDA does not test for specific forms of disease, and therefore, companies are not allowed to make such allegations. If similar claims are made, you should be skeptical of the company's validity and the quality of their products. On the other hand, the CDC determines which type of equipment is appropriate for varying conditions.
You do not need a prescription or any special information to buy these masks and they can be bought at most pharmacies, medical supply stores and on the internet. However, if you are buying from the internet, be certain you are dealing with a reputable company to be certain you are purchasing quality products.
For the most part, personal protective equipment has proven to be a very effective way to prevent against infection. However, the CDC does not suggest or imply the use of these masks is appropriate for common use to keep from becoming infected. They suggest, instead, staying home when you are sick and simply staying away from sick people to prevent the spread of illnesses. However, with the threat of bird flu, many are seeking any means available to guard against infection.
How To Know If Your Flu Symptoms Are Actually From Bird Flu
Since the onset of a bird flu outbreak, many people have gone to their doctors in a panic that they may have contracted bird flu. Although hypochondria may play a minor role, the similarity of some of the flu strains may as well be at fault. While the beginning symptoms of bird flu mimic those of the regular flu, there are subtle differences to watch for.
The initial symptoms of bird flu include fever, sore throat, body ache, and cough - basically the same symptoms of the seasonal flu. While you can rule out a common cold because of the inclusion of body aches, you may not be able to tell which flu strain is at hand. Specifically, a fever of 102 to 104 degrees for a period of 3 to 4 days is common. Likewise, headaches, severe muscle aches, and nasal congestion are also on the list of signs of bird flu. The length of these conditions should be watched to identify possible concerns.
Once these symptoms begin to manifest, you should seek medical care. Many people will try to "tough it out", but with the possibility of death as a result, going to the doctor should seem less intimidating.
There are certain signs that should send you to the emergency room or doctor immediately. Symptoms lasting for more than ten days or that are severe in nature may be an indication your body is not able to defend against the infection at hand. Painful breathing, difficulty in breathing, or bluish skin are also concerns you should watch for. Pneumonia is a common result of the flu, one that is the primary reason for flu deaths. Therefore, pain in the lungs or signs that your body is not getting adequate oxygen may point to a more severe problem.
Fainting, dizziness, or confusion are also red flags that should lead you to the doctor's office, as well as obvious warning signs like excessive vomiting, dehydration, and complications arising from other medical issues.
While many of the initial symptoms are the same for various flu strains, the primary difference apparent with bird flu is the severity of the effects. It worsens quickly, and due to the reaction of the immune system after infection, the body is not able to recover. This is the concern with bird flu and should be remembered when trying to differentiate the regular flu strain and bird flu.
What To Do If Someone You Know Is Diagnosed With Bird Flu
Bird flu is a scary and devastating disease. It has been decades since an influenza virus has had such mis-fortunate potential. With the virus sweeping through most of Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, it is just a matter of time before it reaches every corner of the world. If the virus mutates, an even more deadly issue will be at hand. With such negative predictions, it is almost impossible not to imagine yourself or a love one at the hands of the disease. What would you do if this virus hit home
The important thing to understand is the infection of bird flu is not necessarily a death sentence. Although a large number of deaths have occurred, almost half of those infected survived the disease. Therefore, with advanced medicine and proper care, a person may be able to live after bird flu.
What you do if someone you know is diagnosed will greatly depend on how well you know the person. Is it a friend? Acquaintance? Family member? Obviously, if it is a close friend or family member, you will want to be as supportive as possible. This will be a difficult time for them and any assistance you can provide will probably be greatly appreciated. On the other hand, if you are only dealing with an acquaintance, you may feel relieved and fortunate to have not suffered the same fate. While you may feel guilt at this thought, you can consider it a wake up call to bring the risk to your attention. You may also use this time to lend a helping hand, although you do not feel emotionally obligated to do so.
When someone you know becomes infected, you should also consider the source of the infection and the severity of the threat present. If a family member becomes ill while working on a family farm, you may ascertain infected agricultural animals are to blame and the threat must be alleviated. On the other hand, if no apparent cause is known, human to human contact may be a consideration. This is not only essential information for you to know, but also health professionals in your area. Currently human contact is not a transmission means; therefore, the onset of such would be of great concern.
The important thing to remember is to be there for your loved ones and feel blessed that you are available to help them as opposed to sharing their fate. You will, of course, want to be careful not to become infected during this time, if it can be avoided.
Protection From Flu and Bird Flu
The flu has been an irritant for some time. However, at one time it actually caused worldwide devastation, killing millions of people. Although this type of effect has not been felt from the flu for many years, with the onset of bird flu this is becoming a very real possibility. With this being a concern, people should arm themselves to the full extent to avoid this from occurring.
There are several common-sense precautionary measures that can be taken to protect yourself and your family against being infected by this potentially deadly virus.
The first is to avoid places where the bird flu virus already runs rampant. As of now, the bird flu outbreak is primarily in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Although it is expected to spread worldwide, you should not save it the trouble by traveling where you can become infected more easily. If you must travel to these areas, avoid poultry farms or other high risk areas. On the same note, try to avoid contact with sick people. Simply distancing yourself and your family from the disease can be one of the most effective preventive measures taken.
If you come in contact with sick people, or even as a general rule of thumb, wash your hands often, with antibacterial soap, and practice good hygiene in general. The regular flu virus is spread by saliva and mucus being transmitted to others. If someone coughs in your face, this may not be able to be avoided; however, if you touch something that is contaminated, you will just as likely become ill - unless you wash the virus away before it makes its way into your body.
Another precaution you should take in preventing the infection of bird flu is to properly handle and cook all poultry. While the jury seems to be out on whether or not there are cases of the flu due to undercooked poultry, reliable sources are reporting there have been. Even a suspicion should be enough to encourage certain precautions, not to mention proper handling is just a good practice. Likewise, properly clean all surfaces that have come in contact with raw meat and wash hands after handling.
Should you or a family member become ill, you should seek medical advice. There are medications that can be administered that lessen the impact of many flu strains, but they are only effective if given early in the disease. For this reason, treatment must be sought immediately.
Eat Poultry Safely Without Catching Bird Flu
If you are one of the many turning your nose at poultry due to the threat of bird flu, you may be interested to know there are measures you can take in order to continue to eat your favorite foods. There have been contradictory reports on whether the virus has been spread from the consumption of undercooked poultry, but you should err on the side of safety in this regard to avoid becoming infected.
Interestingly enough, many of the bird flu precautions are the same precautions you should already be taking to avoid bacteria such as salmonella. A little common sense and good hygiene will go a long way in preventing infection.
The first and most obvious tip is - DO NOT EAT RAW POULTRY! Aside from being disgusting, it is also dangerous. You should fully cook all meat you ingest. How do you tell if the meat is fully cooked? It should not retain any pink color, the juice should run clear, and the meat should reach a temperature of at least 70 to 75 degrees Celsius or roughly 165 degrees Fahrenheit. While freezing will not kill the disease, heat will - but only at sufficient temperatures. Therefore, you should be sure to thoroughly cook all poultry.
Other tips from the World Health Organization (WHO) include a few more of the basics. You should not handle raw meat without washing your hands thoroughly before and after (with antibacterial soap, preferably); you should take special care not to cross contaminate cooked food and raw meat by allowing the two to come in contact, using the same knife or other utensils, or handling food without properly washing your hands; and do not place cooked food back on the same plate or dish it was on when it was raw. Each of these is basic information that applies to, not only poultry, but all meat.
Also, thoroughly wash all surfaces and dishes that come in contact with raw meat (with antibacterial cleanser or soap). You should also avoid using raw or undercooked eggs in food preparation and cook eggs thoroughly (they suggest cooking until yolks are no longer runny).
In handling meat, you should also remember that the bird flu virus is not killed by freezing; therefore, all precautions should also be taken in handling frozen poultry as though it had just come from the market.
Tips If Traveling To An Area With Bird Flu
No travel advisory has been issued restricting anyone from going to countries affected by bird flu although WHO has issued a warning to travelers. Travelers are advised against going to live poultry markets, getting close contact to any farms and having direct exposure to feathers, feces or droppings, eggs and poultry meat products. Travelers coming from afflicted countries are also not being screened. However, precautionary measures are in place, particularly in the media. Information is being disseminated in order to make people aware of the bird flu, its effects and what to do to avoid getting infected.
Considering the areas most impacted by bird flu are in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, it is advisable to stay clear of these regions. However, circumstances may arise that necessitates travel. In which case, you need to know how to protect yourself in these areas from contracting bird flu.
In general, basic hygiene can prevent a wide array of infectious diseases. For this reason, frequent hand washing is advised to eliminate bacteria and viral components from one's hands.
More specifically, travelers should avoid any contact with poultry, including those held for agricultural use or wild birds. Any area potentially contaminated with bird feces should also be avoided. Currently, bird flu is only being transmitted from poultry to humans and not from human contact; therefore, you should assume every bird you see is potentially infected, as that very well may be the case.
You should also take special care not to ingest undercooked poultry, poultry products, or dishes made with poultry blood, as the virus may still be active in such dishes.
You also need to avoid contact with sick people or people that are exposed to poultry. This may seem excessive, but the bird flu virus is expected to mutate and be transmitted through human contact. If this were to occur, you could easily catch the disease from someone else. It is better to be cautious and alive than the alternative. Likewise, you may also consider avoiding crowds, as densely populated areas are an ideal breeding ground to spread disease.
If, during your travels, you become severely ill, you may contact a United States Embassy for guidance in seeking treatment and notifying family and friends. Depending on your location, medical care may be limited. Use caution in securing treatment.
Special concern has been shown in visiting Singapore and Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve; however, it has been made very clear that Singapore is free from bird flu. Two entities, AVA and NParks, have continual surveillance projects of the reserve and take blood samples from the birds on a regular basis to ensure infection has not occurred. On the same token, it is unlikely a human would become infected by a wild bird, as direct handling is almost impossible. Most of the cases reported have been contracted from chickens or domestic birds. The primary way a human would be infected from a wild bird is through contact with bodily secretions and feces.
Viruses are constantly mutating and evolving. Health watchers, practitioners and scientists are concerned about this because if a pandemic occurs, there won't be enough time to prepare and develop a vaccine. They fear that we are once again on the brink of another major pandemic threat. However, with the strides being made by technology every day, hopefully the casualty won't be nearly as high as the casualty of the past three major pandemics that claimed at least 20 million lives worldwide.
Avian Influenza (H5N1) Awareness
Prevention and control depends on the awareness of the general population as well as high risk-groups. The avian influenza should be viewed more seriously because it may lead to pandemic influenza when the virus mutates its strain with the common human influenza.
The MOE campaign covers 40,000 elementary and secondary schools in Thailand and will focuses on promoting frequent hand washing, rapid reporting of sick and dead poultry and other key behaviors needed to prevent the spread of the deadly H5N1 virus that causes Avian Influenza.
Quick Facts: Avian Influenza
- Controlling the disease in animals is the first step in decreasing risks to humans.
- Avian influenza (AI), commonly called bird flu, is an infectious viral disease of birds.
- Most avian influenza viruses do not infect humans; however some, such as A(H5N1) and A(H7N9), have caused serious infections in people.
- Reports of highly pathogenic AI epidemics in poultry, such as A(H5N1), can seriously impact local and global economies and international trade.
- Outbreaks of AI in poultry may raise global public health concerns due to their effect on poultry populations, their potential to cause serious disease in people, and their pandemic potential.
- The majority of human cases of A(H5N1) and A(H7N9) infection have been associated with direct or indirect contact with infected live or dead poultry. There is no evidence that the disease can be spread to people through properly cooked food.
- There are many subtypes of avian influenza viruses, but only some strains of five subtypes have been highly pathogenic in humans. These are types H5N1, H7N3, H7N7, H7N9, and H9N2.
- Most human contractions of the avian flu are a result of either handling dead infected birds or from contact with infected fluids
Humans can become ill when infected with viruses from animal sources, such as avian influenza virus subtypes H5N1 and H9N2 and swine influenza virus subtypes H1N1 and H3N2. The primary risk factor for human infection appears to be direct or indirect exposure to infected live or dead animals or contaminated environments.
- As of February 27, 2007 the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported 275 H5N1 cases and 167 people have died.
- 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.