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Avian influenza (AI) or Bird Flu is a disease of viral etiology that ranges from a mild or even asymptomatic infection to an acute, fatal disease of chickens, turkeys, guinea fowls, and other avian species, especially migratory waterfowl.


The Avian viruses, along with the other influenza viruses, make up the virus family Orthomyxoviridae. The virus particle has an envelope with glycoprotein projections with hemagglutinating and neuraminidase activity. These two surface antigens, hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA), are the basis of describing the serologic identity of the influenza viruses using the letters H and N with the appropriate numbers in the virus designation e.g., H7N2. There are now 15 hemagglutinin and 9 neuraminidase antigens described among the Type A influenza viruses. The type designation (A, B, or C) is based upon the antigenic character of the M protein of the virus envelope and the nucleoprotein within the virus particle.


Type A influenza virus causes avian influenza also known as the flu. It is a contagious disease and the main way that influenza viruses are spread is from person to person in respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes. (This is called "droplet spread."). The flu is different from a cold. The symptoms can vary from a mild disease with little or no mortality to a highly fatal, rapidly spreading epidemic (highly pathogenic avian influenza) depending on the infecting virus strain, host factors, and environmental stressors. Some of the symptoms include:

Tiredness (can be extreme).
Dry cough.
Sore throat.
Nasal congestion.
Body aches.

Most people who get influenza will recover in one to two weeks, but some people will develop life-threatening complications (such as pneumonia) as a result of the flu. Anyone can get the flu (even healthy people), and serious problems from influenza can happen at any age. People age 65 years and older, people of any age with chronic medical conditions, and very young children are more likely to get complications from influenza. Pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections are three examples of complications from flu.


>Waterfowl act as a reservoir of avian influenza virus by carrying the virus in their intestinal tract and shedding it in their feces. Avian influenza viruses are spread to susceptible birds through inhalation of influenza particles in nasal and respiratory secretions and from contact with the feces of infected birds.

>The main way that influenza viruses are spread is from person to person in respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes. (This is called "droplet spread.") This can happen when droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person are propelled (generally up to 3 feet) through the air and deposited on the mouth or nose of people nearby. Though much less frequent, the viruses also can be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets on another person or an object and then touches their own mouth or nose (or someone else's mouth or nose) before washing their hands.

A person can spread the flu starting one day before he or she feels sick. Adults can continue to pass the flu virus to others for another three to seven days after symptoms start. Children can pass the virus for longer than seven days. Symptoms start one to four days after the virus enters the body. Some persons can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those persons can still spread the virus to others.


The incubation period is usually 3 to 7 days.

>Drink plenty of liquids.
>Avoid using alcohol and tobacco.
>Take medication to relieve the symptoms of flu.
>Antiviral Medications can also be used to prevent the flu.
>Influenza is caused by a virus, so antibiotics (like penicillin) don't work to cure it. The best way to prevent the flu is to get an influenza vaccine (flu shot).
>Giving aspirin to children and teenagers who have influenza can cause a rare but serious illness called Reye syndrome. Children or teenagers with the flu should get plenty of rest, drink lots of liquids, and take medicines that contain no aspirin to relieve symptoms.


[WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific, Manila, 26 January 2004]

1. Cullers and transporters should be provided with appropriate personal protective equipment:-
>Protective clothing, preferably coveralls plus an impermeable apron or surgical gowns with long cuffed sleeves plus an impermeable apron.

>Heavy duty rubber work gloves that may be disinfected.

>N95 respirator masks are preferred1. Standard well-fitted surgical masks should be used if N95 respirators are not available2.


>Rubber or polyurethane boots that can be disinfected or protective foot covers that can be discarded.

2. All persons who have been in close contact with the infected animals should wash their hands frequently with soap and water. Cullers and transporters should disinfect their hands after the operation.

3. Environmental clean up should be carried out in areas of culling, using the same protective measures as above.

4. All persons exposed to infected chickens or to farms under suspicion should be under close monitoring by local health authorities.

>It is recommended that oseltamivir be readily available for the treatment of suspected H5N1 respiratory infections in cullers and farm workers involved in the mass culling3.

>They should also be vaccinated with the current WHO recommended influenza vaccine to avoid simultaneous infection by human influenza and avian influenza and to minimize the possibility of a re-assortment of the virus's genes4.

>Additional health monitoring of chicken cullers, others involved in the process and their family members should be carried out. These individuals should report any relevant health problems (respiratory complaints, flu-like illnesses or eye infections) to a health care facility. Persons at high risk for severe complications of influenza (e.g. immuno- compromised, over 60 years old, or with known chronic heart or lung disease) should avoid working with affected chickens.

5. Serological surveillance of exposed animal workers and veterinarians is encouraged.




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