Humans generally depend on poultry for their protein needs. Besides been a great source of protein, poultry can offer a great source of income. However, poultry in recent years has been bedeviled by a range of health problems some of which include Coccidiosis, New Castle disease, and the dreaded Avian Flu also called bird flu. This article focuses on Avian Flu. We will learn about the causes, and symptoms as well as the prevention and treatment of the Avian Influenza that affects both birds and humans.
Classification of Avian Flu
Avian are groups of viral infections that infect birds, humans, and animals too.
Avian influenza is divided into 5 main types: H7N3, H7N9, H10N8, H7N7, H9N2 and H5N1. H5N1 is the deadliest and the most common of them all.
It can affect humans and animals, especially birds.
Symptoms of Avian Flu
High Fever, diarrhea, breathing difficulties, malaise, headaches, cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle aches.
Causes of Avian Flu
In as much as there are various types of bird flu, the H5N1 was the first influenza to infect human beings. This originally occurred in Hong Kong in 1997as a result of poor handling of infected birds. Wild waterfowl are susceptible to H5N1 and it can easily spread to domestic fowl. Humans can get infected with the virus through direct contact with bird feces that were infected, nasal fluids, or various secretions occurring from either the eyes or mouth. Swimming or bathing in water that has been contaminated with the droppings of infected birds puts you are risk of contracting the virus. You cannot however contact Avian Influenza if you consume properly cooked chicken or eggs. Meat cooked at 165ºF (internal temperature) is safe for consumption.
Humans and Bird Flu
Humans definitely contact bird flu. They do this through close contact with birds or bird droppings. As they clean or pluck infected birds, they can catch the flu. In china for instance, people get the virus from inhaling aerosolized substances in open markets.
Infected persons can also pass the virus to other persons after close personal contact.
People at Risk of Bird Flu
Bird flu survives in the system of the birds of longer periods. The infected birds continually release the H5N1 virus in their feces, saliva, and other fluids for as up to 10days. The infection is further spread if you touch contaminated surfaces.
Below are examples of people at risk of contacting the H5N1virus
1. Poultry farmers.
2 Health workers attending to the infected patient.
3 Family members of the affected brother.
4 Tourists visiting an infected area.
5 People who undercook, poultry and eggs.
6 People that are exposed to infected friends.
Is it possible to diagnose Bird flu? Oh yes, it is! Through tests such as influenza A/H5 virus RT-PCR primer and probe set, auscultation, chest x-ray, white blood cell differential, nasopharyngeal culture etc., the virus can be diagnosed. Other tests to check the heart, liver and kidney condition can also be carried out.
Can bird flu be treated?
Since there are various types of bird flu, their symptoms as well as their treatment will differ as well.
When treating the virus, antiviral medication is used within 2days of noticing the symptoms. Drugs like Tamiflu (oseltamir) or Relenza (zanamir) are administered to the infected patient.
Antiviral medication such as rimantadine and amantadine should not be used to treat because the virus which makes the form for human beings of the flu can develop resistance to them.
While you undergo treatment, your family members and those you are constantly in contact with, should also take the antiviral drugs as a measure to prevent a problem, even if they are not showing signs of the virus. The same applies to the other birds in the pen. To avoid a further spread of the virus, all infected persons or birds should be placed in isolation booths. If the infection is severe, you could be placed on a breathing machine.
Preventive measures against Bird Flu
There are a few measures you can take to prevent yourself from deliberately contacting the virus. They include;
1. Stay away, as much as possible from countries and areas affected by the flu.
2. If you must go to these places, avoid open markets.
3. Avoid contact with infected birds.
4. Do not eat undercooked poultry products.
In addition to these, they are approved vaccines you can take to protect you against the virus. In the USA for instance, on the 17th of April 2007, FDA announced that there is a vaccine to prevent humans from contracting the flu. The Federal Government purchased them for distribution to public health centers across the country. The World Health Organization also has the vaccine. The vaccines, when taken along with adjuvants (agents that boost the immune system), Humans are protected from the negative effects of the virus and it's spread in contained. However, these vaccines are not yet available to the public in commercial quantity.
The outlook depends on how severe the infection was and the type of influenza virus involved. H5N1 is the most common of the virus and it is also the deadliest.
People with bird flu are prone to the following complications:
2. Failed organs.
3. Fatal inflammation as a response to bacteria or other germs
4. Acute respiratory problems (some may require breathing machines).
5. The virus affects the brain and digestive system of the infected person.