Bird Flu Symptoms
by: David Bradley
Bird flu symptoms are nothing to be sniffed at, especially now Chinese health
experts are saying that the country is likely to experience an upsurge bird flu
cases in people during the next two months. However, the media is full of conflicting
opinions about the overall risk to human health and scare stories about
epidemics and emerging viral
outbreaks are everywhere, what are we to think? It is unclear whether or not
the bird flu virus will become transmissable between people and potentially spread across the globe.
It is possible that if it evolves into a form that people can catch from each
other it will actually lose some of its virulence before it reaches an epidemic
Here's the Sciencebase bird flu symptoms FAQ:
What is bird flu?
Bird flu, or avian influenza to give it its proper name, is caused by various influenza A viruses and occurs naturally the world over infecting wild birds without noticeable symptoms. The virus is highly contagious among birds and can be passed on to other bird species, including some domesticated birds, such as chickens, ducks, and turkeys, where it can cause flu symptoms.
Can bird flu viruses infect humans?
They can, but only very rarely. Moreover, those people infected with bird flu so far live in very deprived conditions in close daily contact with birds and their excretions. At the time of writing, there had been just a few dozen cases worldwide since 1997 compared to the tens of thousands of people who die each year from human flu.
What is bird flu type H5N1?
The name H5N1 refers to the type of proteins found in the protein coat of the influenza virus - haemagglutinin 5(H5) and neuraminidase 1 (N1). There are dozens of different proteins that can be present, so that flu viruses called H1N1, H1N2, and H3N2 etc are also known.
Does bird flu pose a risk to human health?
If it does, the risk is incredibly low. However, when there is an outbreak among domesticated birds, the risk of the virus spreading to people working with or handling live birds increases. Birds and surfaces or equipment contaminated with the excretions of infected birds are contagious.
What are bird flu symptoms?
Symptoms of bird flu are very similar to normal human influenza and the disease cannot be diagnosed from bird flu symptoms alone, an oral or throat swab will be required to check for signs of the avian influenza virus. Human flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, headache, conjunctivitis. Bird flu ultimately causes breathing difficulties, pneumonia and is potentially fatal.
Should I be worried about the H5N1 infections reported in Asia and
So far H5N1 has spread only rarely from infected birds to individuals and even more rarely from one person to another and not then on to a third person. Some scientists are concerned that H5N1 might mutate to form a new virus that could infect people. However, such mutations usually lead to less virulent forms of a virus. After all, H5N1 causes few if any symptoms in wild birds, and if it were to spread to humans, the virus itself would quickly die out if it were commonly fatal.
Is there a vaccine for the mutant form of H5N1?
No. A form of H5N1 that can infect people does not exist. There can be no vaccine for a disease that does not exist. There are several antiviral drugs around that interfere with viral enzymes and stop them replicating.
Will my conventional flu jab protect me from bird flu symptoms?
No. Seasonal influenza vaccine will not protect you from bird flu.
Will there be a flu pandemic?
At the moment, scientists have no answer to this question. However, as always, the media has been quick to latch on to the latest doom and gloom stories. More worrying though is an increasing trend among people who favour "alternative" medicine or those misinformed by a scaremongering media to avoid vaccinations against real threats such as mumps, measles, rubella, and human flu because of concerns about rare or non-existent side-effects. The falling numbers of people protected against these potentially fatal diseases could lead to epidemics that, rather than being a flight of fancy, will pose a real threat to human health.
Answers to some of the questions asked in this article were adapted from a CDC Factsheet.