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Bird flu facts

What is the bird flu?

Bird flu is scientifically referred to as H5N1. It is not the same as the H1N1 that infects humans, but it does cause symptoms in birds. The problem with bird flu is that it has infected and killed domestic poultry. There are two forms of the bird flu: mild and "highly pathogenic". Birds infected with the milder version often show few symptoms, but those with the more virulent form exhibit an ease in spreading and a mortality rate of 90 to 100 percent. This can be devistating to poultry farmers who can have their entire flocks killed by the bird flu.

Does bird flu infect humans?

Humans generally do not have to worry about becoming sick from the same virus that sickens birds, but those who have worked closely with poultry flocks have had cases of getting the avian flu. In these rare cases of documented bird flu in humans, symptoms have included: eye infections, flu like symptoms, and more serious respiratory infections such as pneumonia. Rarely, neurological changes, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting might also accompany other symptoms.

What is the difference between bird flu and the seasonal flu?

Where seasonal flu often only shows mild symptoms in humans, bird flu in humans acts like the "highly pathogenic" version of the avian flu in birds. It has caused dangerous respiratory symptoms and many more deaths than seasonal flu, but the incidence of avian flu in humans since its discovery is minuscule when compared to the millions infected with seasonal flu annually. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), many of the traditional antiviral medications have not proven to be effective in the treatment of the avian flu, but others yet widely tested could show potential.

Could the bird flu in humans cause a human pandemic?

The bird flu is rare in humans, but for the few who catch it, they are unlikely to pass it on to other humans. Transmission of the bird flu is genetically more likely to be passed on from birds to other birds or to animals.

A series of events must take place for the bird flu to be able to transform into a type which could cause a human pandemic. A person would have to already have human flu and then become infected with the bird flu. These two viruses in his body could combine to create a new virus which could infect humans, but thus far, such an event has yet to occur. The rarity of human cases of bird flu further reduces the chances of such a scenario happening.

Current vaccine and antiviral research hope to prevent future infections of humans with the bird flu, and by keeping people from becoming sick with the bird flu, they can also prevent the combination of viruses and the creation of a new, human pandemic virus from bird flu.



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