What is the bird flu, and how does it differ from the common flu?
- Seasonal (or common) flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent this illness is by getting a flu vaccination each fall.
- Avian (or bird) flu, which is commonly referred to as Influenza A (H5N1) virus, occurs mainly in birds. And occasionally can be transmitted to humans. There is no human immunity and no vaccine is available. Aggressive efforts are underway to develop a vaccine.
- Pandemic flu is virulent human flu that causes a global outbreak, or pandemic, of serious illness. Because there is little natural immunity, the disease can spread easily from person to person. Currently, there is no pandemic flu.
How has the virus spread from birds to humans?
Infected birds shed flu virus in their saliva, nasal secretions, and feces. The primary source for human exposure has resulted from people having direct or close contact with H5N1-infected poultry or H5N1-contaminated surfaces. Infection can spread during slaughter, defeathering, butchering, or preparing poultry for cooking.
What are the symptoms of the avian flu in humans?
Symptoms are similar to the seasonal flu, which include fever, cough, sore throat, and muscle aches. Other more serious symptoms are eye infections, pneumonia, respiratory distress, organ failure, and other severe life-threatening complications.
Is a vaccine for avian flu currently available?
A vaccine is under development but is not ready for commercial production. The current vaccinations for the common flu do not offer protection against the H5N1 virus.
How can I reduce my risk for becoming infected?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the same suggestions for preventing colds and common viruses apply. They include:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
- If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
- Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.
- Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Do not share drinking glasses, eating utensils, water bottles, etc.
- Dispose of used tissues and other similar objects appropriately
- Getting the flu vaccine is recommended for preventing the seasonal flu, even though it doesn’t provide protection against avian influenza
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
More information about the Avian flu, pandemic influenza, and seasonal flu can by obtained by visiting the CDC website at www.cdc.gov