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What you need to know about Avian Influenza (Bird flu)


The Noguchi Memorial Institute for Research (NMIR) has confirmed the outbreak of the Avian flu, also known as bird flu.

Five out of six sample tests conducted by the Institute proved positive for the bird flu virus. There is presently no case of a human transmission yet.


This is what you need to know about the disease in humans.


Avian Influenza A Virus Infections in Humans

Although avian influenza A viruses usually do not infect humans, rare cases of human infection with these viruses have been reported. Most human infections with avian influenza A viruses have occurred following direct or close contact with infected poultry. Illness in humans has ranged from mild to severe.


The spread of avian influenza A viruses from one ill person to another has been reported very rarely, and has been limited, inefficient and not sustained. However, because of the possibility that avian influenza A viruses could change and gain the ability to spread easily between people, monitoring for human infection and person-to-person transmission is extremely important for public health.



Signs and Symptoms of Avian Influenza A Virus Infections in Humans

The reported signs and symptoms of low pathogenic avian influenza* (LPAI) A virus infections in humans have ranged from conjunctivitis to influenza-like illness (e.g., fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches) to lower respiratory disease (pneumonia) requiring hospitalization.


Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A virus infections in people have been associated with a wide range of illness from conjunctivitis only, to influenza-like illness, to severe respiratory illness (e.g. shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, pneumonia, acute respiratory distress, viral pneumonia, respiratory failure) with multi-organ disease, sometimes accompanied by nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting and sometimes neurologic changes (altered mental status, seizures).


LPAI H7N9 and HPAI Asian H5N1 have been responsible for most human illness worldwide to date, including the most serious illnesses and deaths.



Detecting Avian Influenza A Virus Infection in Humans

Avian influenza A virus infection in humans cannot be diagnosed by clinical signs and symptoms alone; laboratory testing is required. Avian influenza A virus infection is usually diagnosed by collecting a swab from the nose or throat of the sick person during the first few days of illness.


This specimen is sent to a lab; the laboratory looks for avian influenza A virus either by using a molecular test, by trying to grow the virus, or both. (Growing avian influenza A viruses should only be done in laboratories with high levels of protection).


For critically ill patients, collection and testing of lower respiratory tract specimens may lead to diagnosis of avian influenza virus infection. For some patients who are no longer very sick or who have fully recovered, it may be difficult to find the avian influenza A virus in the specimen, using these methods. Sometimes it may still be possible to diagnose avian influenza A virus infection by looking for evidence of the body’s immune response to the virus infection by detecting specific antibodies the body has produced in response to the virus.


This is not always an option because it requires two blood specimens (one taken during the first week of illness and another taken 3-4 weeks later). Also, it can take several weeks to verify the results, and testing must be performed in a special laboratory, such as at CDC.


Preventing Human Infection with Avian Influenza A Viruses


The best way to prevent infection with avian influenza A viruses is to avoid sources of exposure. Most human infections with avian influenza A viruses have occurred following direct or close contact with infected poultry.


People who have had contact with infected birds may be given influenza antiviral drugs preventatively. While antiviral drugs are most often used to treat flu, they also can be used to prevent infection in someone who has been exposed to influenza viruses. When used to prevent seasonal influenza, antiviral drugs are 70% to 90% effective.


Seasonal influenza vaccination will not prevent infection with avian influenza A viruses, but can reduce the risk of co-infection with human and avian influenza A viruses.


More information on CDC’s Avian Flu website here 



Source: CDC


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