What is the Avian Flu (H5N1)?

Posted December 29, 2017

By Dr. Ananya Mandal, DOCTOR IN MEDICINE

Avian influenza or bird flu is a highly contagious viral infection that is transmitted between birds and on rare occasions, from birds to humans.

There are several varieties of bird flu, most of which do not affect humans. However, two types of bird flu have caused a lot of concern in recent years. These are the H5N1 virus, which was found to infect humans in 1997 and the H7N9 virus that infected humans in 2013.

Although these viruses do not usually spread among humans, they have claimed the lives of several people. Other strains of avian influenza virus that can infect humans include H7N7 and H9N2, although these deformations do not usually cause severe disease. >

The H5N1 virus affects a wide variety of bird species including chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys. It can be passed between commercial, wild and pet birds. Birds do not always develop symptoms of infection, so apparently healthy birds can still pose a risk to people coming into contact with it. As with other forms of the flu, bird flu is typically results in symptoms such as a high fever, muscle pain, headache, snot and a cough. People who develop a cough usually continue to develop more severe respiratory symptoms such as pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome. Serious respiratory problems can lead to respiratory distress and require mechanical ventilation. Other symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, abdominal pain and bleeding from the nose and gums.

Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSCA

http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/publications/fact_sheets/pdfs/ai/HPAI082005.pdf http://www.health.ny.gov/publications/7085.pdf https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/influenza/avian/ http://www.who.int/influenza/human_animal_interface/en/ http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/gen-info/pdf/avianflufacts.pdf http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Avian-flu/Pages/Introduction.aspx http://www.clintoncountypa.com/Pandemic%20Information/AvianFluFacts .pdf

[Additional Reading: H5N1]