Bird Flu (Avian Flu)

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Has Bird Flu Been Seen in the U.S.?

What Are the Symptoms of Bird Flu in People?

Bird flu, or avianinfluenza, is aviral infectionspread from bird to bird. The most common kind of bird flu is the H5N1 strain. Its mostly a threat to birds and doesnt spread easily among people, but there was a majoroutbreakof bird flu in people in 2014. The very few cases of human-to-human transmission were among people with exceptionally close contact, such as a mother who caught the virus while caring for their sickinfant.

Migrating water fowl — most notably wild ducks — are the natural carriers of bird flu viruses. Its suspected that infection can spread from wild fowl to domestic poultry.

People catch bird flu by close contact with birds or bird droppings.

In the 2014 outbreak, some people caught H5N1 from cleaning or plucking infected birds. There were reports in China of infection via inhalation of aerosolized materials in live bird markets. Its also possible that some people were infected afterswimmingor bathing inwatercontaminated with the droppings of infected birds. And some infections have occurred in people who handle fighting cocks.

People dont catch the virus from eating fully cooked chicken oreggs.

There were a few cases where one infected person caught the bird flu virus from another person, but only after close personal contact.

In Indonesia in 2006, bird flu spread to eight members of one family. Seven of them died. Its not clear exactly how this happened. Family members likely had similar contacts with infected birds. They may also have shared genes that made them particularly susceptible to the virus. However, casual contact does not seem to be involved.

Various strains of bird flu pop up in U.S. poultry from time to time. When they do, all affected poultry flocks are culled.

For example, in 2004, a highly dangerous bird flu strain appeared in a Texas chicken flock. The outbreak involved an H5N2 virus (not the H5N1 bird flu). By April 2004, the outbreak had been eradicated. No human infections were detected.

Bird flu symptoms in people can vary. It may start out with normal flu-like symptoms. Sometimes, this can worsen to become a severe respiratory disease that can be fatal.

In February 2005, researchers in Vietnam reported human cases of bird flu in which the virus infected thebrainand digestive tract of two children. Both died. These cases show that bird flu in humans may not always look like typical cases of flu.

Yes. The FDA approved the firstvaccineto prevent human infection with one strain of the bird flu in 2007. But its not been made commercially available to the general public. The U.S. government purchased thevaccinein case it needed to be distributed by public health officials.

The flu drugsoseltamivirTamiflu),peramivir(Rapivab), orzanamivir(Relenza) may help treat bird flu in people, although more studies are needed. Thesedrugsmust be given soon after symptoms appear.

Van Kerkhove, MD,PLoS One, January 2011.

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