Avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu, is an infectious viral disease which normally affects wild birds but can sometimes spread to domestic poultry. The flu doesn’t normally affect humans except for the H5N1 strain. A new strain H7N9 has been identified which seems to be highly fatal and kills victims within three weeks. Bird flu cannot spread from one human to another like swine flu. But according to researchers, if the strains affecting humans mutates and starts spreading between humans it could cause a large scale pandemic.
Avian influenza can only spread from infected birds to humans by coming in close contact with them. It can spread from the bird’s skin, excreta and blood. Also eating, uncooked or under-cooked birds infected with the virus could cause bird flu. If a farm-raised bird gets affected it must be immediately culled to stop the virus from spreading. The virus cannot spread from one human to another like swine flu.
Some of the typical symptoms are fever, cough, sore throat and muscle aches. More severe symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, eye infections and could ultimately lead to pneumonia and respiratory failure. The most commonly used medicine to treat H5N1 in humans is Tamiflu (Oseltamivir), an anti-viral that prevents the spread of flu in the body. There is no publicly-available vaccine against H5N1 yet.