Avian influenza: How it infects humans, treatment and more!

As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), H5N1 first infected humans in 1997, leading to a number of deaths. 

Bird flu

Zee Media Bureau

New Delhi: Avian influenza (AI), also known as bird flu, is an infectious type of viral infection that spreads among birds. AI viruses, sometimes can affect humans and other animals.

Bird flu affects many species of birds, including chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese causing large-scale outbreaks of serious disease.

The most common form of bird flu is H5N1, which is deadly to birds as well as to humans and other animals that come in contact with a carrier. As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), H5N1 first infected humans in 1997, leading to a number of deaths. The other bird flu virus H7N9 - a low pathogenic AI virus - first infected 3 humans in March 2013. Other bird flu viruses, such as H6N1, H10N8 and H5N6 have also infected people.


How does bird flu affect humans?


The primary risk factor for human infection of bird flu appears to be direct or indirect exposure to infected live or dead poultry or contaminated environments. Humans can get bird flu by close contact with an infected bird, especially, when virus gets into a person's eyes, nose or mouth, or is inhaled. Some people get H5N1 from cleaning or plucking infected birds. Some infections have also been identified where direct contact was not known to have occurred.

However, there is no evidence that the disease can be spread to people through properly cooked food.


Bird flu symptoms


Humans with bird flu may experience flu-like symptoms, such as-

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea
  • Muscle aches
  • Respiratory illness - shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, pneumonia, acute respiratory distress, respiratory failure
  • Abdominal pain

You should seek medical help immediately if you experience these symptoms as prompt treatment can help prevent complications and reduce the risk of death.

Bid flu, if not treated, can lead to potentially fatal complications such as pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome and multiple organ failure.


How is bird flu treated?


People infected with bird flu are given antiviral medication such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza) to help reduce the severity of the disease. They will be advised to take plenty of rest, fluids and eat a healthy diet. They will also be kept in isolation to avoid spreading the virus to others.

Family members or other people in close contact with an infected person might also be given antivirals as a preventive measure, even if they aren’t sick.

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