Bird Flu refers to the infection brought about by a particular kind of avian influenza virus. There are various kinds of bird flu but the one that caused panic and anxiety among the public a few years ago is the highly pathogenic avian influenza A, more commonly known as the H5N1 bird flu virus.
This virus, which originates from wild birds, can be passed to birds that are raised as food such as turkeys, chickens and ducks.
Generally, this virus is not transferred from birds to people but since 1997 up to the recent outbreak in 2008, cases of people getting inflicted with this deadly disease have been reported.
Most of the cases reported were in Asian countries, where birds are raised in farms and people have close contact with them. The virus can spread through the bird's saliva and droppings. It can also live on various surfaces including birdcages, feeders, and other farm tools. People don't usually get the virus from eating infected birds, as long as it is cooked properly since heat kills the virus.
Even though only a few people were infected with this virus during the last outbreak, more than half of them died. This is because the body is not equipped with immunity against this particular kind of disease. Even if you are in tiptop health, you can get seriously ill if you are infected with bird flu.
To prevent from getting infected with this disease, the first step is to get a vaccine. In 2007, a vaccine for humans that serves as protection against bird flu has been created and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Consult your health provider first before getting this vaccine.
Although the outbreak has been cleared already a few years back, it would still be a good idea to steer clear of poultry farms, factories, plants, or any other venue that have close contact with bird species as much as possible. If you don't really need to be there, don't go to open-air markets that sell live birds. If you intend to travel to a country that was infected with bird flu, have a regular flu shot two weeks before your trip departure. Moreover, practice safety precautions such as washing your hands all the time and cooking poultry food items thoroughly before eating.
It is also very important that you learn more about this disease. For one, you have to be aware of the symptoms of bird flu, which include fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, and eye infection called conjunctivitis. It's imperative to detect the disease at the early stage as it can quickly progress to serious illnesses like pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome. Keep in mind that the virus can be fatal 9 to 10 days after the person is infected.
This disease is usually diagnosed through a physical exam and interview. Your doctor will inquire about the location of your residence, location of trips abroad, and whether or not you have had close contacts with birds lately. In addition to this, the doctor may also perform blood tests, nasal swabs, and X-rays to find out what is troubling you.