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BIRD FLU (AVIAN FLU)

Avian flu or Bird flu is an influenza virus strain that infects birds i.e. wild birds like ducks,and domestic birds like chickens.
Several forms of bird flu exist, the majority are relatively harmless, producing mild or even no symptoms at all. However several strains of bird flu produce a highly contagious disease that kills quickly, which can lead to a bird flu epidemic. This is known as “highly pathogenic avian influenza” Such is currently being spread among chickens in Asian countries. Recently, it was discovered that the bird flu virus can occasionally infect people who have close contact with birds such as chickens and ducks.

Symptoms and treatment

In humans, bird flu or avian flu causes similar symptoms to other types of flu as follows:

CONJUNCTIVITIS, FEVER, COUGH, MUSCLE ACHES, SORE THROAT, BREATHING PROBLEMS, PNEUMONIA.

Anyone with symptoms of bird flu, should see a doctor immediately. Several antiviral drugs used to treat human flu appear to be effective in the treatment of bird flu, although the strain is resistant to others, please consult your doctor.

H5n1 virus infecting birds in Asia, which caused illness and death to humans is resistant to AMANTADINE AND RIMANTADINE, two antiviral drugs currently used for influenza. Although two other antiviral drugs OSELTAMAVIR and ZANAMAVIR, would probably work to treat flu caused by bird flu virus, further studies need to be done to prove their effectiveness. The strain of bird flu detected in Asia has no vaccine.

Minimising the risk

The following advice should now be strictly adhered to:

Avoid direct contact with sick wild birds, wear protective clothing, mask, disposable gloves and overalls. Avoid contact with wild bird droppings and keep working area clean and regularly disinfected in areas of wild bird activity. Maintain a regular cleaning routine, and wash hands regularly with antibacterial soap and water.

The most common question we get asked is “ARE MY STAFF AT RISK FROM CAPTIVE BIRDS SUCH AS THE HARRIS HAWKS WE EMPLOY”

The answer is NO. They are at greater risk from wild birds such as pigeons, and other wild pest species. All birds at effective bird control are domestic bred in captivity and contact with wild birds is minimised.

How to avoid getting bird flu

The following common sense guidelines should be adhered to:

* Avoid contact with poultry and their droppings if you are traveling to areas affected by avian influenza.
* Travelers unable to avoid contact must clean hands with soap and water or waterless alcohol based hand rubs.
* All foods from poultry, including eggs, should be thoroughly cooked.
* Any travelers with a respiratory illness from countries affected by h5n1 virus to seek prompt medical attention.

How dangerous is bird flu?

There have been a number of small outbreaks of bird flu since 1997 which have a high mortality rate.

997, Hong Kong, 18 people infected, 6 people died.

2003, Hong Kong, 2 cases 1 death.

2004, East Asia, 10 deaths.