s avian influenza (AI), commonly called bird flu hits India, here are some of the facts that you should know about the infectious disease of birds.
Avian influenza is a viral infection which spreads from bird to bird, caused by a group of influenza A virus that includes different sub-types.
Most avian influenza viruses do not infect humans, however certain strains are infectious to humans. These include – H5N1, H7N3, H7N7, H7N9 and H9N2.
The most well known example is the avian influenza subtype H5N1 viruses currently circulating in poultry in parts of Asia and northeast Africa. Cases of the H5N1 virus, which can be deadly to humans, were identified in Telangana in India.
The spread of the virus to humans is associated with direct or indirect contact with infected live or dead poultry. However, there is no evidence that bird flu can be transmitted to humans through properly cooked chicken or eggs. While an infected person can get the virus from another person through close personal contact, there has been no sustained human-to-human spread of H5N1 so far.
Symptoms of bird flu in humans may include – high fever, sore throat, stomach pain, diarrhea and vomiting. Chest pain, bleeding from the nose and gums have also been reported as early symptoms in some patients. Severe cases can cause hypoxemia, multiple organ dysfunction, and secondary bacterial and fungal infections.
Antiviral drugs like oseltamivir (Tamiflu) are found to be effective although more studies are required. Also, there are some vaccines for use in humans and others are in testing, but none have been made available to civilian population as supplies are limited.
The best way to prevent avian influenza is to avoid sources of exposure whenever possible. Besides, controlling the disease in animals will help reduce the risks in humans.