Bird Flu

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Bird flu (avian influenza) is caused by a type of influenza which rarely affects human beings. Over a dozen types of bird flu have been identified so far. This includes H5N1 and H7N9, the two strains which have most recently affected humans. Bird flu can be fatal for humans.

Asia, Africa, North America, and parts of Europe have witnessed outbreaks of bird flu. People who develop symptoms of bird flu would have mostly had close contact with sick birds. On rare occasions, bird flu gets passed from one person to the other. Only isolated human cases have been reported ever since 2015.

Health officials are cautious about a global outbreak, as they fear that the bird flu virus might mutate into a form which transmits more easily from person to person. Researchers are trying to develop different vaccines which will protect people from bird flu.


Symptoms of bird flu start to appear within two to seven days of infection. This includes cough, fever, muscle aches and headache.


Bird flu develops naturally in wild waterfowl. It spreads into domestic poultry including chickens, turkeys, and ducks. The disease gets transmitted through contact with an infected bird’s feces, or through secretions from its nose, mouth/eyes.

The disease spreads into a wider community from open-air markets, The crowd and unsanitary conditions can make such markets hotbeds of infection.

Bird flu can be transmitted through undercooked poultry meat or eggs. If cooked to an internal temperature of 165 F (74 C), poultry meat is considered safe for eating. It is always recommended to cook eggs until the yolks and whites are firm.

Risk Factors

Contact with sick birds or with surfaces contaminated by their feathers, saliva/droppings is the greatest risk factor for bird flu. The pattern of human transmission continues to remain a mystery. Only on rare occasions has bird flu been transmitted from one person to another. Infected birds always pose a great threat!


Bird flu may lead to life threatening complications in human beings. This includes pneumonia, conjunctivitis, kidney dysfunction and heart problems.

Although bird flu may kill more than half of the people infected by it, the number of fatalities remains low because only a few people have been infected by the disease so far. Since 1997, less than 500 bird flu deaths have been reported to the World Health Organization (WHO).


Bird flu vaccine

A vaccine for preventing infection with H5N1 strain of bird flu virus has been approved by the US government. But they are stockpiling it for distribution in the event of an outbreak.

Always remember, washing your hands is one of the simplest and perfect ways to prevent infections of almost all kinds!

Poultry and egg products

Since heat destroys avian viruses, cooked poultry isn’t actually a health threat. However it is always recommended to take precautions while handling and preparing poultry, since it might be contaminated with salmonella or other dangerous bacteria.

  • We should use hot, soapy water for washing cutting boards, utensils and other surfaces which have come in contact with raw poultry. 
  • Cook chicken until it reaches a minimum initial temperature of 165 F.
  • Try to avoid food containing raw or undercooked eggs.
Check Your Knowledge

Answer)  The common symptoms include cough, fever, muscle aches and headaches.

Answer) Wild Waterfowl. 

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