Bird Flu - Information on Bird Flu

By: peterhutch

Bird flu has led to the deaths of hundreds of millions of wild and domestic birds and to a small number of human deaths. Right now, however, bird flu remains difficult for humans to contract. Most people who have developed symptoms have had close contact with sick birds, though in a few cases, bird flu has passed from one person to another.

Flu viruses occur naturally in birds and have been recognized for more than 100 years. They are popularly known as bird flu, avian flu, bird influenza or avian influenza, and there are more than a dozen sub-types. They are often carried by wild birds, though it is usually domesticated birds that become sick.

Generally, the viruses do not affect humans, or cause mild illness at worst.
Diarrhea and Abdominal Pain: Diarrhea and abdominal pain has been a symptom in some patients, but not all of them. Watery diarrhea may be a symptom in bird flu cases, but is not a common symptom in regular flu. Diarrhea comes before respiratory symptoms. Two young patients had encephalitis and diarrhea without any respiratory symptoms.

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.

Officials of the Kano state avian flu control committee detected the presence of Avian flu among 16,000 chickens on a farm a few days ago, a month after the area was declared free of the virus.
Avian influenza cannot be diagnosed by symptoms alone, so a laboratory test is required. Avian influenza is usually diagnosed by collecting a swab from the nose or throat during the first few days of illness. This swab is then sent to a laboratory, where they will either look for avian influenza virus using a molecular test, or they will try to grow the virus. Growing avian influenza viruses should only be done in laboratories with high levels of protection. If it is late in the illness, it may be difficult to find an avian influenza virus directly using these methods.

The virus has been identified in 12 states, including the largest city, Lagos, as well as around the federal capital, Abuja, since it was first confirmed in Nigeria four months ago.

Avian influenza infection 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. It is the highly pathogenic form of H5N1 that concerns scientists.

Avian influenza (or bird flu) is a highly infectious disease affecting many species of birds, including chickens, duck, turkeys and geese. It can affect commercial, wild and pet birds. There are 15 types of bird flu, but the type that is causing concern at the moment is the deadly strain H5N1.

Avian flu passes from birds to other birds, but there have also been human cases. As of January 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) had confirmed 270 cases of H5N1 in humans in Azerbaijan, Cambodia, China, Djibouti, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam, leading to 164 deaths.

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