Avian influenza: Description:Avian influenza is the scientific name for bird flu, a type A influenza virus (genus Influenza A virus) that causes fowl plague.Types: Asian influenza, endemic influenza, Hong Kong influenza, influenza A, influenza B, influenza C, Russian influenza, influenza nostras, Spanish influenza, and swine influenza.Causes and Risk Factors:Avian influenza is an infection caused by avian (bird) influenza (flu) viruses. These influenza viruses occur naturally among birds. Wild birds worldwide carry the viruses in their intestines, but usually do not get sick from them. However, avian influenza is very contagious among birds and can make some domesticated birds, including chickens, ducks, and turkeys, very sick and kill them.Infected birds shed influenza virus in their saliva, nasal secretions, and feces. Susceptible birds become infected when they have contact with contaminated secretions or excretions or with surfaces that are contaminated with secretions or excretions from infected birds. Domesticated birds may become infected with avian influenza virus through direct contact with infected waterfowl or other infected poultry, or through contact with surfaces (such as dirt or cages) or materials (such as water or feed) that have been contaminated with the virus.Infection with avian viruses in domestic poultry causes two main forms of disease that are distinguished by low and high extremes of virulence. The “low pathogenic” form may go undetected and usually causes only mild symptoms (such as ruffled feathers and a drop in egg production). However, the highly pathogenic form spreads more rapidly through flocks of poultry. This form may cause disease that affects multiple internal organs and has a mortality rate that can reach 90-100% often within 48 hours.Influenza A (H5N1) virus - also called “H5N1 virus” - is a virus subtype that occurs mainly in birds, is highly contagious among birds, and can be deadly to them. H5N1 virus does not usually infect people, but infections with these viruses have occurred in humans. Most of these cases have resulted from people having direct or close contact with H5N1-infected poultry or H5N1-contaminated surfaces.The H1N1 flu virus may cause a more dangerous flu season with a lot more people getting sick, being hospitalized and dying than during a regular flu season. H1N1 is a new virus first seen in the United States. It is contagious and spreads from person to person. Like seasonal flu, illness in people with H1N1 can vary from mild to severe.The H5N1 virus that has caused human illness and death in Asia is resistant to amantadine and rimantadine, two antiviral medications commonly used for influenza. Two other antiviral medications, oseltamavir and zanamavir, would probably work to treat influenza caused by H5N1 virus, but additional studies still need to be done to demonstrate their effectiveness.Symptoms:Flu symptoms may include fever, coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, body aches, chills and fatigue. In H1N1 flu infection, vomiting and diarrhea may also occur.Diagnosis:There is no way to tell what type of virus a person has without doing tests. In most cases, the diagnosis of flu is determined by the symptoms, especially when these occur during the peak flu season (late fall and winter in the U.S.). Sometimes, the doctor may need to perform special tests to be sure the seasonal influenza virus is responsible for the symptoms.To identify whether the virus is present and to test for the type of influenza, a sample is taken from the back of the throat and/or nose. The doctor uses a cotton-tipped wooden stick and simply rubs the cotton tip at the back of the throat and/or inside the nose. Alternatively, samples may be obtained by rinsing saltwater (saline) solution through the nose and throat and aspirating the fluid back into a specimen jar. The sample is sealed in a packet and sent to the lab for testing. Some offices may use a rapid test that can be done in the office with the result available in 30 minutes. Some rapid tests detect only influenza A virus, while others can detect both influenza A and influenza B. Some cases of flu may be missed by the rapid tests.Importantly, routine diagnostic tests available in the doctor's office probably cannot determine whether a case of the flu is due to bird flu or human flu. If bird flu is suspected, the samples would be sent to a reference laboratory (usually through the health department) for special testing. If a patient is in the hospital, the physician may recommend a bronchoscopy, which involves slipping a tube through the mouth into the lungs to aspirate secretions.Treatment:Antiviral drugs like Tamiflu and Relenza block the flu virus from escaping an infected cell and spreading further. But the drugs have to be taken within 48 hours of getting the flu.There is no commercially available vaccine to protect against H5N1 virus that is being seen in Asia and Europe.Self-Care at Home
Rest in bed. Avoid physical exertion. Avoid using alcohol and tobacco.
Drink plenty of fluids such as water, fruit juices, and clear soups. Water should not be the sole or main liquid consumed for prolonged periods because it does not contain adequate electrolytes (sodium and potassium, for example) that the body requires. Commercially available products such as sports drinks can be useful in this regard. For children, ORS (Oral Rehydration Solution) packets are another good way to replenish the body fluids.
Steam inhalations may be useful in opening up a blocked nose and thus make breathing easier.
Treat fever and aches with over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol is a common brand), ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin are examples), and naproxen (Aleve or Naprosyn can be purchased at most drug stores). Aspirin is not recommended in children or teenagers because of an increased risk of severe liver disease called Reye's syndrome. Always follow package directions. Do not combine medicines with the same ingredients. For example, many sinus preparations already contain acetaminophen and should not be taken together with Tylenol.
Cough suppressants, antihistamines, and decongestants should be used only according to package directions. Many of these products have limited effectiveness and may have side effects. The FDA has recommended against the use of these products in children and infants.
Cough or sneeze into a soft tissue or handkerchief. Carefully dispose of tissues after using them and wash your hands.
Avoid touching hard surfaces where flu viruses may remain alive: handrails, telephones, doors, faucets, and counters. Wash your hands often, especially after being in public places or at work.
Stay away from people who have the flu if possible. If you experience flu symptoms, you should consider staying at home and not going to work or to crowded places in which you might spread the virus.
DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.
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