Avian Influenza: Asian Bird Flu

You cannot pick up a newspaper or turn on the television these days without hearing about Bird Flu. Information flooding constantly into our homes can be scary and confusing. Let’s take a look at the facts about bird flu.

Avian flu is a bird to bird infection that is caused by influenza viruses. The viruses live in the intestines of birds, and are highly transmittable among birds. Some birds get sick from the viruses and some do not, however domesticated birds such as turkeys can become very sick and die from Avian Influenza. Bird Flu is spread when healthy birds come into contact with the bodily fluids of infected birds. This can include contact with waste matter or saliva.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, The chances of humans contracting Avian Flu are very low. Bird Flu in humans has occurred, but never in the United States. In 1997, the first bird to human transmission was reported in Hong Kong. A total of eighteen people contracted the virus, and six died. It is believed that Avian flu is transmitted to humans through contacted with infected bird waste or other bodily fluids, or by contact with infected surfaces or meat.

Symptoms of Avian Flu in humans are much like those of a typical bout of the flu. They can include, sore throat, fever and body aches. Other complications can include eye infections, and pneumonia. There currently is no vaccination available to humans to prevent Bird Flu.

Developing vaccinations for influenza viruses is challenging and can take years due to the fact that influenza viruses change continuously, and become resistant to vaccinations. Scientists are working on a plan of action in case of the possibility that Avian Flu viruses could change to the point where humans are more easily infected.

As with many viruses, the already low odds of transmission can be reduced through common sense health measures, including frequent hand washing, avoiding those who are infected, and proper nutrition and hydration.

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