Avian or bird flu is an infection that spreads among birds, and in rare instances, it can also affect humans. The bird flu virus has many different strains; most don’t infect humans. The following four strains are some primary bird flu concerns in recent years:
- H5N1 (since 1997)
- H7N9 (since 2013)
- H5N6 (since 2014)
- H5N8 (since 2016)
Bird flu spread
Bird flue spreads due to close contact with the infected bird (dead or alive) that includes:
- Touching the infected bird
- Touching the bedding or droppings
- Killing or preparing the infected bird for cooking
A market where they sell live birds can also be a source of bird flu, so avoid visiting those markets if you are traveling to countries with a bird flu outbreak.
Bird flu symptoms
The primary symptoms of bird flu can appear very quickly, and they include:
- Muscle aching
- A high temperature and feeling shivery
- Shortness of breath or a cough
Other early symptoms are:
- Stomach pain
- Chest pain
- Bleeding from the nose and gums
It takes around three to five for the first symptoms to appear after the infection, and it’s also possible to develop severe complication as acute respiratory distress syndrome and pneumonia.
Bird flu treatments
Seek medical help straightaway as you notice bird flu symptoms. If the doctor confirms they are symptoms of bird flu, they will advise you to stay home or in a hospital for isolation.
The doctor might give you an antiviral medication like Tamiflu or Relenza. Antiviral medications help to lower the severity of the condition and prevent any further complications improving the chances of survival.
The doctors might also prescribe the medication to people who have been in close contact with an infected person or close contact with the infected birds, for example, healthcare staff or family members.
Reviewed by – Dr. Priyanka, MBBS MD Microbiology
Page last reviewed: 16 JULY 2022