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Bird Flu FAQ: Avian Influenza

Bird Flu FAQ: Avian Influenza

Bird Flu FAQ: Avian Influenza The possibility of a devastating pandemic is growing as more instances of avian flu are being reported worldwide. It is well known that pandemics (global disease outbreaks) resemble flash floods. They begin suddenly, spread quickly, and do significant harm all across the world.

Some information that everyone should be aware of:


What is influenza in birds?

Avian influenza, as the name suggests, is an infection brought on by viruses that cause the flu in birds. Wild birds can carry these viruses in their intestines without becoming ill, and the viruses are frequently detected there. However, domesticated animals like chickens, ducks, and turkeys are susceptible to the virus. Domesticated birds can contract an infection from other birds or from surfaces that have been polluted by the diseased birds' feces and secretions.

Both Low Pathogenicity and High Pathogenicity viruses are included in this classification. The majority of avian influenza strains fall into the LPAI (Low Pathogenicity Avian Influenza) Group and only cause minor symptoms in infected birds. Feathers that are ruffled, a decreased appetite for food, fewer eggs being produced, and sneezing and coughing are common signs. LPAI often may go undetected.

More severe signs of High Pathogenicity Avian Influenza (HPAI) include unexpected mortality, decreased egg production, lack of energy and appetite, respiratory issues, face edema (swelling), poorly shaped eggs, and diarrhea. The fatality rate from HPAI may approach 100%.


What is the H5N1 bird flu strain?

Type A, B, or C influenza viruses are the most common types, depending on how they are structured. Lethal pandemics are caused by Type A, which is present in both humans and animals. Localized flu outbreaks are brought on by type B. Since Type C is the most stable of the three, those who are infected only have minor flu symptoms. Only humans typically have Type B and C. Types B and C are not divided into subcategories because they are more stable than type A.

Hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase, two proteins (antigens) present on the surface of influenza type A viruses, serve as the foundation for the classification of these viruses into subtypes (NA). There are 16 different HA kinds and 9 different NA types. As a result, 144 different combinations are available.

Therefore, H5N1 is a type A virus, and its name comes from the presence of the proteins HA 5 and NA 1 on its surface.


How Do Viruses Of Type A Spread Pandemics?

Strains of type A viruses are further categorized. These strains are capable of ongoing evolution into new strains. They are unpredictable and challenging to combat because of their capacity to interchange genetic material with other viruses and produce new influenza viruses. Each time a new strain is generated, the human body must produce new antibodies or immunity.

Since viruses are unable to repair genetic damage, little variations called "Antigen Drift" result in the ongoing emergence of new viral strains. However, a completely new strain is produced when the genetic material from Type A viruses belonging to other species, such as a bird and a human, combines and mutates. This process is called "Antigen Shift." Such a strain may spread quickly and has no protection against humans, leading to a pandemic.


How Does the Bird Virus Get From Birds To Humans?

Typically, human infection by avian influenza viruses is rare. Despite acting as their carriers, migratory birds are unaffected by these viruses. The disease is then carried to domesticated birds like chickens and turkeys by these birds when they come into touch with them. Domesticated birds are also susceptible to contracting the virus from touching infected surfaces. Domesticated birds can develop major epidemics after a virus has infected them. Humans get the virus when they come into touch with diseased birds or polluted surfaces.

When this avian flu virus enters the human body, it undergoes an antigenic shift, fuses with the genetic material of a human influenza virus, and develops into a whole new strain of virus against which humans have little to no antibodies. These genetic reassortments may also occur in the body of a third species, such as the pig, which is vulnerable to both avian and human viruses. A novel virus that may be able to infect people is created when a virus and the human influenza virus combine their genetic code.


Why is H5N1 a risk?

In Southern China in 1997, the first cases of H5N1 infections were found in geese. Six out of the 18 recorded human illnesses resulted in death. Hong Kong's poultry immediately caught the illness. To suppress the infection at the time, one million and a half hens were slaughtered in Hong Kong. After being away for a while, the virus returned in 2002 in Hong Kong. Since then, it has killed millions of birds in Asia and has been linked to several human diseases.

It is quite concerning for humans that this H5N1 virus strain continues to exist. Despite the difficulty in transferring the virus from birds to people, the severity of H5N1 infection in humans is alarming. Every second individual afflicted by the virus has died. These cases were completely healthy people with no prior history of illness. The possibility that the virus may mutate (undergo an antigenic shift) and produce a form that could spread from human to human is, however, what should worry the world the most. A pandemic caused by this viral strain might kill millions of people globally.


Is It Safe To Eat Poultry Birds?

Yes, it's okay to eat chicken items that have been THOROUGHLY COOKED. Since the H5N1 virus is heat-sensitive, cooking at temperatures between 70 and 100 degrees Celsius can kill it. The virus will be eliminated if poultry meat and eggs are prepared properly. Just make sure that no meat is left undercooked or raw.


What Amount Of Pandemic Risk Is There?

Three times in the 20th century, a bird flu pandemic affected the whole world. The "Spanish Flu" killed anywhere from 20 million to 50 million individuals in 1918-1919 (precise numbers unknown), including 500,000 in only the United States. Both the "Asian flu" in 1957–1958 and the "Hong Kong flu" in 1968–1969 claimed 70,000 lives in the USA.

Currently, there is a substantial chance that the H5N1 virus will cause a pandemic. The virus is rapidly spreading to new locations, and efforts to contain it have been ineffective.

Domestic ducks are currently the virus's "reservoir." They are acting like viral carriers since the virus is present in their body even if they don't feel sick. The virus is then transferred to other birds or people by infected ducks excreting enormous amounts of the dangerous virus. This has made viral detection challenging, particularly in rural regions.

Health professionals believe that the virus has already fulfilled the first two requirements for a pandemic to begin. It has first taken on a form against which people are immune by nature, and it has also been shown pathogenic enough to kill or seriously injure humans.

The pandemic danger is quite high right now. The virus hasn't evolved into a form that would enable effective human-to-human transmission, which is the single thing that has so far prevented a pandemic. Once the virus undergoes such a genetic alteration, a pandemic will unavoidably occur. The emergence of clusters of individuals with flu symptoms who are closely related—both in time and space—will be the first indication of such a reassortment. This would be a glaring example of a virus that may spread from person to person.

For the H5N1 strain, no vaccine has yet been created. There are several nations working on vaccination at the same time, but little progress has been made. There is no way to predict which virus will create the pandemic. Therefore, widespread vaccination production before the epidemic begins is ruled out. When a pandemic strikes, the world's industrial capacity cannot keep up with the unexpected spike in demand. The best that can be done is to conduct research to ascertain the least quantity of antigen per dosage that will maximize the production of vaccinations while yet offering enough protection.


What Steps Must Be Taken To Prevent A Pandemic?

The obvious first step is to prevent the sickness from spreading to birds, but right now that appears like a challenging undertaking. In many areas of Asia, the bird flu has turned into an epidemic and is growing quickly.

The following step is to stop the sickness from spreading to people. People who interact closely with birds, such as poultry farmers, are recommended to keep a close eye on the health of the birds, report any signs of illness to the appropriate authorities, and always avoid direct contact with sick birds. (Ducks have developed into a viral reservoir and may not show symptoms even if they are carrying the infection.)

The majority of nations will be impacted if the virus spreads globally. The greatest preventive measures in such a situation would be good personal cleanliness, avoiding crowded areas, and avoiding raw meat and eggs.

A flu vaccination can protect a person from other flu strains and help them avoid complications, but it does not prevent bird flu. Consult a doctor before getting the flu shot if you are over 65, have a child, are a member of the medical profession, suffer from a chronic respiratory condition, traveled to a country where the flu is prevalent, or are pregnant.


What Are the Signs of Human Bird Flu and What Are the Treatment Options?

A person with bird flu may exhibit all normal flu symptoms, such as a fever, a cough that won't go away, a sore throat, and body aches. Additionally, a significant risk of consequences including pneumonia, bronchitis, eye and ear infections, as well as serious breathing issues, exists.


Four medications are currently used to treat influenza.

Oseltamivir (marketed as Tamiflu) and Zanamivir are the two medications proven to be the most effective for treating seasonal flu (Commercial name Relenza). Both of these are known to lessen the intensity and length of the seasonal flu, but if the virus is allowed to linger in the body for an extended period of time, it might not be as effective. According to medical experts, treatment for the flu with these medications should begin within 48 hours of the onset of flu symptoms.

Neuraminidase inhibitors include Oseltamivir and Zanamivir. Between fresh viruses and infected cells, the surface protein neuraminidase dissociates connections. These two medications stop the release of new viruses by inhibiting the action of neuraminidase.

Domestic ducks are currently the virus's "reservoir." They are acting like viral carriers since the virus is present in their body even if they don't feel sick. The virus is then transferred to other birds or people by infected ducks excreting enormous amounts of the dangerous virus. This has made viral detection challenging, particularly in rural regions.

Health professionals believe that the virus has already fulfilled the first two requirements for a pandemic to begin. It has first taken on a form against which people are immune by nature, and it has also been shown pathogenic enough to kill or seriously injure humans.

Currently, there is a very high possibility of a pandemic. Because the virus hasn't changed into a form that would make it easier for it to spread from one person to another, a pandemic hasn't yet been averted by anything other than that. A pandemic will unavoidably occur once the virus experiences such a genetic mutation. The existence of clusters of flu patients who are closely connected to one another in both time and distance will be the first indication of such a reassortment. This would be a blatant sign that the virus may spread from person to person.

For the H5N1 strain, no vaccine has yet been created. There are several nations working on vaccination at the same time, but little progress has been made. There is no way to predict which virus will create the pandemic. Therefore, widespread vaccination production before the epidemic begins is ruled out. When a pandemic strikes, the world's industrial capacity cannot keep up with the unexpected spike in demand. The best that can be done is to conduct research to ascertain the least quantity of antigen per dosage that will maximize the production of vaccinations while yet offering enough protection.


What Steps Must Be Taken To Prevent A Pandemic?

Controlling the disease's spread among birds would be the obvious first step, but that task now looks challenging. In many regions of Asia, avian influenza has turned into a pandemic and is spreading quickly.

The following step is to stop the sickness from spreading to people. People who have frequent contact with birds, such as poultry farmers, are recommended to carefully check the health of the birds, report any occurrences of avian sickness to the appropriate authorities, and always avoid direct contact with sick birds. (Ducks have developed into a viral reservoir and, despite carrying the virus, may not exhibit symptoms of illness.)

The vast majority of nations will be impacted if influenza spreads globally. The greatest preventative actions in such a situation would be maintaining personal cleanliness, avoiding crowded areas, and avoiding eating raw meat and eggs.

The flu shot can protect a person from other influenza strains and help them avoid complications, but it does not prevent bird flu. Consult a doctor before getting the flu shot if you're pregnant, over 65, have a child, a health service professional, have a chronic respiratory condition, or plan to travel to an area where the virus is prevalent.


What Are the Signs of Human Bird Flu and What Are the Treatment Options?

An individual with bird flu may exhibit all normal flu symptoms, including fever, a prolonged cough, sore throat, and body aches. In addition, a considerable risk of complications exists, including pneumonia, bronchitis, ear, eye, and severe breathing issues.

Four medications are currently used to treat influenza.

Oseltamivir (marketed as Tamiflu) and Zanamivir are the two medications proven to be the most effective for treating seasonal flu (Commercial name Relenza). Both of these are known to lessen the intensity and length of the seasonal flu, but if the virus is allowed to linger in the body for an extended period of time, it might not be as beneficial. According to medical experts, treatment for the flu with these medications should begin within 48 hours of the onset of flu symptoms.

The Neuraminidase Inhibitors family of drugs includes Oseltamivir and Zanamivir. Between fresh viruses and infected cells, the surface protein neuraminidase dissociates connections. These two medications stop the release of new viruses by inhibiting the function of neuraminidase.

There is also a different family of medications called M2 inhibitors, however, viruses quickly adapt to these medications, making them potentially ineffectual for managing pandemics. Rimantadine and amantadine are the two medications in this group. These medications block the M2 protein's ability to create a channel in the membranes of viruses, blocking the replication of certain viruses.

Before using any of these medications, one should speak with a doctor since THESE MEDICINES ARE KNOWN TO HAVE SIDE EFFECTS IN SOME CASES. Zanamivir, for instance, is not advised for persons with long-term respiratory conditions like asthma.

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