What is Bird Flu? Know about its Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
Like humans, birds also catch the flu. Bird flu is also known as Avian Influenza. It is a viral infection that not only infects birds, but can also infect humans and other animals through close contact. The most common type of bird flu infection that can spread to humans is H5N1.
H5N1, a subtype of bird flu, has a high mortality rate. The infection usually affects wild birds. The bird flu virus is highly contagious and mainly affects poultry such as chickens, turkeys, and ducks.
How does Bird flu spread?
Wild birds tend to carry infections in their intestines. However, they are usually not infected. It occurs naturally in birds.
Infected birds transmit the virus to susceptible birds. They spread the virus through saliva, nasal secretions, and bird droppings (feces). Susceptible birds become infected when they come in contact with these secretions. Humans, on the other hand, become infected when they come into close contact with these sensitive birds. Most cases of bird flu in humans are the result of close contact with infected poultry or contaminated surfaces.
Symptoms of Bird flu
Humans are not easily infected with bird flu, but in rare cases, it can affect humans.
H5N1 infection can be diagnosed in humans when the following symptoms are seen:
- Chest pain.
- Cold sweat.
- Loss of appetite.
- Sore throat.
- Hard to sleep.
- Fever over 100 degrees fahrenheit.
- Bleeding gums.
- Muscle and joint pain.
- Lung infection.
- Bleeding in sputum.
- Eye infection (very rare symptom).
Most of the symptoms of bird flu are similar to the common cold. Therefore, you should not self-diagnose yourself and consult a doctor to check whether you have bird flu or not. A rapid decline in health is a sign of bird flu.
Risk factors of developing the Bird flu
The greatest risk factor for H5N1 bird flu is 'close contact' with infected birds.
Touching or direct contact with contaminated surfaces is a major risk factor.
You may be at high risk of infection if you:
- Visit or own a poultry farm.
- Exposed to infected birds.
- Treat or care for sick birds.
- Eat raw poultry or eggs.
- Slaughter or kill infected birds.
- Touch unwashed eggs from infected birds.
- Touch water infected with infection from sick birds.
- Visit the open market where infected birds are sold.
Causes of Bird flu
Bird flu occurs naturally in a bird named wild waterfowl (wild ducks) and can spread to poultry such as chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese. The disease is transmitted through contact with infected bird droppings or secretions.
Outdoor markets, where eggs and birds are sold in crowded and unsanitary conditions, are hotbeds of infection and can spread disease to a wider population.
Uncooked poultry meat or eggs from infected birds can transmit bird flu.
Prevention and Treatment for Bird flu
One of the most important prevention against bird flu (avian influenza) is the flu vaccination. People can take responsibility for their health and take some simple but useful precautions to prevent the flu. These precautions include:
- Wash your hands regularly with warm water and soap.
- Cough while mouth covered with a handkerchief.
- Stay isolated if you catch a cold to avoid spreading the infection.
- Oseltamivir Tamiflu is used by some doctors to control and prevent disease and as internal medicine for treatment.
- Bird flu patients should get full rest, drink plenty of fluids and take proper nutrition.
Home Remedies to Fight Bird flu
Turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory properties which help stimulate immunoprotective agents and reduce the risk of bird flu. For this, add a pinch of turmeric to a glass of warm water and consume it.
Compounds like gingerols and zingerone in ginger prevent flu from growing in the body and helps increase immunity to fight against pathogens. For this, drink ginger tea every morning. You can also add honey or lemon to the tea and consume it for added benefits.
Astragalus is known as an immune-boosting herb that supports bone marrow by increasing interferon production. These help fight pathogens and reduce the symptoms of bird flu. For this, add astragalus roots to tea or soup.
Garlic is known for its antiviral and antibiotic properties which fight bird flu effectively. Garlic also boosts immunity. For this, consume one clove of garlic with a glass of water to boost immunity and to treat the flu.
Catechins, phenolic compounds found in green tea, are known for their strong anti-influenza properties. These compounds help minimize bird flu symptoms.
Inhaling steam helps relieve nasal congestion and loosens mucus. This is the best way to clear blocked airways when a person is suffering from bird flu symptoms. For this all you have to do is boil water, cover your head with a towel and inhale the steam.
When to see a doctor?
Call your doctor if you have flu symptoms within 10 days of handling poultry or traveling to any area known to have a bird flu epidemic.