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What is Bird Flu?

Bird flu, also known as avian influenza, is a viral infection that might infect not only birds but humans and other animals also. All forms of the virus are restricted to birds and it’s deadly to birds. It can affect humans and other animals that come in contact with a carrier, mostly a bird infected with the virus. A(H5N1), A(H7N9), and A(H9N2) are the most common subtypes that can affect humans. Even though it’s rare, the symptoms of bird flu can range from mild fever to severe flu-like illness that can lead to respiratory failure or death. Humans generally get in contact with this flu from contact with live or dead infected birds. Till now it has been noticed that it cannot be spread through human-to-human contact.

What are the Types of Bird Flu?

There are no types of bird flu but the virus that causes bird can be classified into subtypes based on two proteins on the surface of the virus:

– Hemagglutinin (HA), which has 16 subtypes (H1-H16)

– Neuraminidase (NA), with 9 subtypes (N1-N9)

– Various combinations of HA and NA proteins are possible such as H5N1, H5N2, H7N2, H7N8, etc.

Bird Flu viruses can be divided into two groups based on their ability to infect chickens with the virus: highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) or low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI).

– HPAI viruses can lead to high mortality in poultry and at times high death rates in some species of wild birds.

– LPAI viruses can lead to a range of results in poultry ranging from no visible clinical signs to middling death rates. LPAI viruses normally show no to mild signs in wild birds.

What are the Symptoms of Bird Flu?

Bird flu generally causes flu-like symptoms including:

– Pink eye (conjunctivitis).

– Fever (above 38°C or 100.4°F).

– Cough.

– Body and muscle pain.

– Sore throat.

– Nausea.

– Vomiting.

– Diarrhea.

– Runny nose.

Bird flu might cause severe respiratory symptoms and conditions in some cases, including:

– Shortness of breath.

– Acute respiratory distress.

– Pneumonia.

– Respiratory failure.

What are the Causes of Bird Flu?

Humans might get bird flu when they get in contact with infected birds, dead or alive. You might get infected if you breathe in the virus present in droplets or dust. You might also get infected by touching something infected by the virus and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.

Though rare, there are a few instances where the bird flu has been spread from people who were infected to people who had no contact with infected birds.

Contrary to popular belief, you can’t get bird flu from eating properly processed poultry, but you should avoid eating anything that has raw poultry or blood as an ingredient.

What are the Risk Factors of Bird Flu?

You may have a higher risk of contracting bird flu-causing virus if you are:

– A poultry farmer.

– Visiting affected areas.

– Is exposed to infected birds knowingly or unknowingly.

– Eating undercooked eggs or poultry.

– Working with infected patients.

– A family member of an infected person.

What are the Complications of Bird Flu?

The complications of bird flu infection are usually based on the type of influenza virus causing it and its severity. H5N1 has a high mortality rate, while other types are not life-threatening:

Some complications of bird flu include:

– Sepsis.

– Organ failure.

– Pneumonia.

– Respiratory problems.

How Bird Flu is Diagnosed?

Symptoms alone are not enough to diagnose bird flu because the symptoms are more or less similar to common flu. There are some tests available to diagnose bird flu where your doctor might take a swab from your nose or throat and send it to the lab for further specialised tests. A test known as influenza A/H5 (Asian lineage) virus real-time RT-PCR primer and probe set can diagnose bird flu in four years but it’s not widely available.

Some tests to diagnose bird flu include:

– Auscultation (a test to find unusual breath sounds)

– White blood cell differential

– Nasopharyngeal culture

– Chest X-ray

In addition, tests may be done to examine the functioning of your heart, kidneys, and liver which might help to indicate if bird flu affected the organs of your body.

What are the Treatment Options Available for Bird Flu?

The treatment of bird flu may vary because different types of bird flu can lead to different symptoms and because of this, the treatments may differ.

The most common way to treat bird flu is by giving antiviral medications. Some common antiviral medicines given to treat bird flu include:

– Peramivir.behaviour

– Oseltamivir.

– Zanamivir.

These medicines should be given under 48 hours after symptoms first appear. If you develop a severe infection then your doctor may place you on a breathing machine. Antivirals

Living with Bird Flu

If you are diagnosed with bird flu then antiviral medicines can be helpful to treat you and you can lead a normal life. Since the symptoms of bird flu are the same as the seasonal flu, you might be uncomfortable and sick when the virus is still inside you but it usually goes away after you take antivirals. Doctors might prescribe antivirals for the members of your family and people near you as a precautionary measure.

Whom to Contact?

If you are experiencing symptoms of bird flu and you have recently visited a poultry farm, open-air markets that sell poultry, or places where bird flu exists then you shall contact your doctor and get yourself diagnosed. Your doctor will diagnose if you are suffering from bird flu or seasonal flu and start treatment accordingly. Antiviral medicines are given to treat bird flu.

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