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Home Swine Flu Origins What is the Avian Flu?

What is the Avian Flu?

The avian flu is not the same as the swine flu, and it is different from the H1N1 flu pandemic affecting humans, but the possibility exists that the avian flu could merge with the swine flu or mutate on its own into something which could have as devastating an impact on human populations as it has on birds.

How is avian flu different from the H1N1 flu virus?

Scientists refer to flu strains by their genetic markers. The type of flu which has recently been sicking and killing humans is H1N1 flu. The avian flu which has wrought havoc on poultry farmers' stock is termed the H5N1.

What types of avian flu viruses are the most dangerous?

Types of the flu virus identified by scientists as the most likely to spread among a species are those of the H5 or H7 type. The current H5N1 avian flu has spread very rapidly among bird populations because it is of one of the more dangerous types: the H5 type. H5N1 avian flu, also known as the bird flu, has attacked flocks of birds, killing as many as 90 to 100 percent of local bird populations. The damage to poultry farmers' incomes is severe, but the potential for damage to their health is even greater.

How could avian flu affect humans?

So far, human cases of avian flu have been very rare, and mostly they do not transmit between humans once making the just from birds to people, but the few people who contract a form of the avian flu, find that severe complications and death are as common in humans with bird flu as it is in birds. Bird flu in humans is not very contagious to other humans, and the virus usually stops after infecting its first human host, but there is a chance that it could become a mutated virus which is more easily spread between people. The avian flu could also mix with another flu strain, which is more likely to be transmitted to humans, such as swine flu.

Is there a vaccine for avian flu in humans?

So far, a vaccine which might prove effective in preventing a global pandemic of the avian flu is not available, and some of the antiviral medications used to treat the seasonal flu appear to not slow the pace of the H5N1 virus in humans. There are vaccines which have been developed in clinical trials, but they will not be available until either an outbreak or should conditions during the regular flu season appear to threaten a pandemic of the H5N1 avian flu in humans.

What about chicken and duck, can I still eat poultry?

Just as people cannot get swine flu (link to swine flu article) from eating bacon, properly cooked chickens and other poultry will kill any avian flu virus or other disease-causing micro-organism in the meat. To ensure that the flesh is safe to eat, it should be cooked to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit in deepest part, as measured by a meat thermometer. Raw and undercooked poultry products are not recommended and should not be consumed.


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