Questions and Answers on Bird Flu

Bird flu as the name implies is a disease that affects wild and domesticated birds (poultries and house birds);  however  very occasionally it affects human being , hence its importance. Until 1996,it was not known in human population, but in that year it affected one adult in the United Kingdom who developed eye infection after contact of his eye with duck feather. But this was a mild infection which healed easily.
In 1997, there was a major outbreak, the first of its kind in the world in Hong Kong with chest infections affecting 18 people out which 6 died. It was later found to be due to severe form of bird flu.
Since November 2003, nearly 400 cases of human infection with highly pathogenic avian influenza A (H5N1) viruses have been reported by more than a dozen countries in Asia, Africa, the Pacific, Europe and the Near East.

1. Q.What is Bird Flu?
   A. Bird flu as the name implies is a disease that affects wild and domesticated birds (poultries and house birds). It occasionally affects humans with disastrous results.

2. Q.What Causes Bird Flu?
    A.Bird Flu is caused by Avian Influenza A virus, there are several types of this virus, all placed in groups and subgroups. Some are quite mild, infection of which   is not life threatening, while others are quite severe.
Another feature of the virus is that it can change quickly into different forms. The bird flu causing viruses are Avian Influenza A H7N7, H7N2, H9N2, H7N3 and H5N1. The last group, H5N1, appears to be the most the serious and results in high death rate if it enters the human population.

3.Q.How Does Bird Flu Spread?
   A.The disease spreads by droplets (airborne infection) and by direct contact with infected birds or indirect contact via contaminated objects. Person to person spread though very rare as of today, is through droplets, direct and indirect contact.

4.Q.When Do You Suspect You May Have Bird Flu?
   A.The reported signs and symptoms of avian influenza in humans include eye infections (conjunctivitis), fever, cough, sore throat and muscle aches.

5.Q. What Can Put You at Risk?
   A. Poultry farmers and those called to deal with affected farms are most at risk. Also, those who sell poultry.

6. Q. What are the Possible Complications of Bird Flu?
   A. Possible complications of bird flu in humans include pneumonia and death

7. Q.  How can you prevent Bird Flu infection?
   A. Poultry farm workers and responders to bird flu outbreaks are advised to do the following:
1. Practice hand hygiene.
2. Use appropriate personal protective equipment.
3. Self monitoring for 7 (seven) days after exposure to infected poultry or objects contaminated by avian influenza A virus-excretions/secretions.
4. Responders to outbreaks should take prophylactic antiviral medication during the outbreak control response.
5. A vaccine for humans against the H5N1 virus has been developed but not yet in universal use.

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