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Bird flu is caused by viruses
naturally found in birds. Wild birds carry these viruses in their intestines
with no ill effects because usually these birds are more immune to the
viruses. However, when domesticated birds
such as geese, ducks, chickens, and turkeys catch the virus, it can make them
very ill and may cause them to die.
on this virus through saliva, nasal secretions, and faeces. Any direct
contact with these substances or contact with a surface contaminated with these
substances (dirt, cages, water, feed) causes infection. Domesticated birds may catch the viruses
through direct contact with contaminated wild birds. Humans can contract the
virus through contact with infected birds.
Muscle weakness and/or
Sore eyes (conjunctivitis) is seen
in some patients
death and complications are:
- Severe viral pneumonia
- Respiratory distress
- Multi- organ failure
History of the
In 1983, a
strain H5N2 of relatively low pathogenicity circulated
in the US.
But, in six months, the virus mutated into a highly pathogenic virus with
a death rate of close to 90%. In the end,
the epidemic caused $65 million USD and the death of 17 million domestic
birds. A similar case happened in
Italy, when in 1999-2001 a strain of the
H7N1 virus started out with low pathogenicity and
within 9 months developed high pathogenicity, and 9
million birds were either killed by the virus or destroyed to halt the spread.
Human cases which ended in death were unknown until 1997, where six people in
killed by a particularly virulent strain of the H5N1 virus.
epidemic is caused by H5N1 virus. This
strain of virus began its rampage in Vietnam and Thailand in January 2004. Within weeks the virus had spread to ten other
south East Asian countries. This virus is
especially contagious among birds and can be fatal to them. Human infection usually does not happen,
although recently there have been more cases of this. Infection is only possible if humans touch
contaminated birds or contaminated surfaces.
This type of virus alone is not too much of a threat. Scientists are worried that the virus will
mutate into a virus which is easily contagious among humans, causing a worldwide
flu pandemic just like the one back in the 1910's. This pandemic was caused by a Spanish Flu, and
killed 20 million people. Also, in
February 2004, a subtype of the virus was detected in pigs in
Vietnam, resurfacing worries of meat, as
chicken and pork are popular meat.
- Antiviral drugs (some of which can
be used for both treatment and prevention)
Thoroughly wash your hands with soap
and water before and after handling chicken meat
- Clean kitchen surfaces and
utensils before and after use
Cook chicken well by seeing to it
that the boiling temperature is reached
Do not let chickens roam freely if
you own chickens
Keep them in cages or
Do not place chickens, ducks and
pigs together in one area, cage or pen.
Do not catch, go near or keep wild
birds in captivity
Report to authorities any unusual
death or illness of chickens and other birds
- Report to authorities any case of
respiratory illness with history of exposure to sick or dead chickens and
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