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At a time when we are far from winning over the deadly pandemic, we are yet again faced with another hardship.

This time, in the form of Bird Flu. While it is not as widespread as throughout the country, it has been reported in about 5 states so far.

But what exactly is bird flu and how can it cause harm? Let’s find that out and everything about it in this article.

What is Bird Flu?

Bird Flu which is also known as Avian Influenza is a type of viral infection that is commonly found in birds. However, it can also be spread from birds to humans and other animals.

H5N1 is the most common strain of bird flu and is most prevalent. While the H5N1 strain is known to not spread between humans, it still has the potential to become a significant pandemic-level threat.

What is H5N1?

As mentioned above, it is a deadly strain of bird flu that is commonly found in birds. It is usually found in poultry like chicken, turkey, ducks, and geese.

How is it spread to humans?

The virus is spread from the saliva, feces, nasal secretion, or feed of the birds. This virus in turn contaminates the surfaces like cages and other farming equipment and transfers to humans on contact.

The flu can again be transferred from one person to another, however, it is only possible on very close contact.

What are the symptoms of bird flu?

The symptoms of bird flu are pretty much similar to the common flu.

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Runny nose
  • Muscle ache
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Diarrhea
  • Breathlessness or difficulty in breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal and chest pain
  • nausea

In severe cases, H5N1 can cause rapid deterioration through breathlessness, pneumonia, or multiple organ failure and may even cause death.

What is the incubation period for bird flu?

An incubation period is the time taken for a person to catch the virus and develop symptoms.

The incubation period for bird flu is between 2-5 and 7 days.

Who are at risk of catching bird flu?

The bird flu virus is known to survive for a longer duration of around 10 days. During this time, the birds infected with H5N1 will continue to contaminate the surroundings with the virus.

  • Poultry farmers
  • People exposed to infected birds
  • People in close contact with an infected person
  • Eating uncooked or undercooked poultry or eggs
  • People visiting affected areas.

Should you stop eating poultry?

While a bird flu scare may deter you from indulging in eggs and poultry, it is safe to consume them after cooking them at least over 70º C.

How is bird flu diagnosed?

If you feel that you have come in contact with the virus, it is recommended to consult a doctor at the earliest as it can help with a better diagnosis and recovery.

The doctor will look for bird flu symptoms, ask questions to understand your travel history and if you came in contact with any birds, and finally, your respiratory samples will be taken and sent to a lab for analysis.

Your doctor may also request other tests to understand the functioning of your organs like heart, kidney, liver, and others.

Treatment for bird flu

The treatment for bird flu may vary depending on your symptoms.

However, in most cases, the treatment includes antiviral medication. It is important to take this medication as soon as the symptoms arise.

During the time of your treatment, until the infection subsides, you will be advised to be in isolation, so that it is not spread to others.

You will also be asked to take rest, consume lots of fluids, have a balanced and healthy diet, and take medication for symptoms like fever and cold.

In case you develop bacterial pneumonia, which is a common development in the case of contracting bird flu, your doctor will advise you to take antibiotics.

In severe cases, if you have trouble breathing, you will be given supplemental oxygen through a breathing machine.

Is bird flu preventable?

While the spread of bird flu is not possible, the risk of contracting it or spreading it further can definitely be reduced.

It is important to note that there are vaccines for common flu but not bird flu.

To prevent the spread of bird flu, it is important to practice:

  • Proper hygiene
  • Better coughing etiquette when in public
  • Isolation when symptoms arise
  • Cooking poultry completely at high temperature
  • Washing hands regularly

If in case you are living in areas where bird flu is reported or if you notice symptoms similar to it, it is recommended to Contact a Doctor immediately.

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