What is bird flu?
Bird flu, or avian influenza, is an infectious disease of birds caused by type A strains of the influenza virus. Bird flu epidemics have occurred worldwide. The recent spread of bird flu Bird Fluhas been localised to certain parts of Asia.
Migratory waterfowl – most notably wild ducks – are the natural reservoir of bird flu viruses. It is suspected that infection can spread from wild fowl to domestic poultry, including chickens and turkeys, and then to humans. Live bird markets have also played an important role in the spread of epidemics.The type currently causing concern is the “highly pathogenic” Asian strain of the H5N1 virus. Scientists have discovered four different subtypes of H5N1, and there could well be more. However, all are deadly to birds, and can cause disease – and death – in humans. However, it is important to note that H5N1 is overwhelmingly a disease that affects birds – and not humans.
It is true that humans have been infected, but almost all have been poultry workers who have come into intimate contact with birds. H5N1 cannot pass easily from human to human.
How do humans get bird flu?
Bird flu was thought only to infect birds until the first human cases were seen in Hong Kong in 1997. Humans catch the disease through close contact with live infected birds.

People catch bird flu by contact with infected birds or bird droppings. Birds excrete the virus in their faeces, which dry and become pulverised, and are then inhaled.

People do not catch the virus from eating fully cooked chicken or eggs. There have been a few cases where one infected person caught the bird flu virus from another person – but only after close personal contact.

What are the symptoms of bird flu in humans?

It changes every year. For this year, those who have been affected with bird flu from chickens start out with normal flu-like symptoms. Symptoms are similar to other types of flu – fever, malaise, sore throats and coughs. People can also develop conjunctivitis. This worsens to become a severe respiratory disease that has been fatal in a high percentage of cases.

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

Is it safe to eat poultry and poultry products?

Yes, though certain precautions should be followed in countries currently experiencing outbreaks. In areas free of the disease, poultry and poultry products can be prepared and consumed following good hygienic practices and proper cooking, with no fear of acquiring infection with the H5N1 virus.

In areas experiencing outbreaks, poultry and poultry products can also be safely consumed provided these items are properly cooked and properly handled during food preparation. The H5N1 virus is sensitive to heat. Normal temperatures used for cooking (70 degrees Celsius in all parts of the food) will kill the virus. Consumers need to be sure that all parts of the poultry are fully cooked (no “pink” parts) and that eggs, too, are properly cooked (no “runny” yolks).Consumers should also be aware of the risk of cross-contamination. Juices from raw poultry and poultry products should never be allowed, during food preparation, to touch or mix with items eaten raw. When handling raw poultry or raw poultry products, persons involved in food preparation should wash their hands thoroughly and clean and disinfect surfaces in contact with the poultry products Soap and hot water are sufficient for this purpose.
In areas experiencing outbreaks in poultry, raw eggs should not be used in foods that will not be further heat-treated as, for example by cooking or baking.
See Also:H5N1 back-18000 chickens dead


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