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Avian flu is caused by a type of influenza that usually affects birds. This type of influenza virus is a naturally occurring vitamin in birds. It can happen in wild birds or tame birds and occurs in the birds intestines. Some birds do not get sick but harbor the virus in their system. Domesticated animals, including chickens, ducks, turkeys and other domesticated bird pets often get very sick and die from the disease.

Infected birds shed the virus in their stool, nasal secretions and saliva. Other birds become infected through direct contact with sick birds. Contact with surfaces can also contribute to becoming infected with avian flu. There are two kinds of avian flu in domestic animals, including a low pathogenic form that can go undetected because it causes mild symptoms and a highly pathogenic form that spreads rapidly through flocks of poultry. It can cause a mortality rate of at least 90 to 100 percent within forty eight hours.

Humans can become infected with avian flu, also called H3N2 and H5N1 influenza. The vast majority of infected individuals become infected via contact with sick birds and it is not yet a virus that passes from human to human. The viruses are labeled according to their HA subtypes and NA subtypes. Birds can have other viruses besides H5N1 and H3N2. The spread of the virus from human to human has occurred but is extremely rare and has not been an efficient transfer of virus from human to human. No sustained infections have been found to occur.

Symptoms of avian influenza in humans involve the typical influenza symptoms such as a fever, sore throat, muscle aches and cough. Eye infections and pneumonia have been found in avian flu as secondary infections. Complications can be severe and can result in death. The symptoms can be virus-dependent and can be variable. Medication exists to treat the disease if it is caught early.

As to the highly pathogenic avian flu virus A (H5N1), researchers are concerned that it will acquire the ability to transfer from person to person through air contact, like coughing or sneezing. Many people will die from this disease should this event happen. Infections with the H5N1 virus have been known in humans but no epidemics have yet been identified.

H5N1 has caused the most severe disease and death in humans among all avian flues. This means that it is just as deadly in humans as it is in birds. Milder cases may also be present in humans but are not reported as often because of their milder nature.

Of humans infected with the disease, about sixty percent of these people have died of the virus. Most cases have occurred in healthy children and young adults. It is not easy to become infected with the disease as it stands now and requires contact with poultry or surfaces infected with H5N1 virus. In Thailand, a family got the disease from exposure to infected poultry. At least two family members came in direct contact with a surface infected with H5N1. A mother came in direct contact with her child who had the disease and got the virus from the child. Six family members got the disease but no one outside of the family became infected with the virus.

Vaccination against H5N1 virus is available. The virus is resistant to amantadine and rimantadine so that there is no real way of treating the disease medically with antiviral agents. Two other agents, oseltamivir and zanamivir can be used for influenza A type H5N1 and other types of influenza A. They are not yet approved for use in the US. The other treatment involves supportive measures like taking ibuprofen, naproxen or Tylenol and using cold and cough medications.

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Medical Negligence Solicitors

Our personal injury solicitors operate a specialist medical negligence compensation service. Our Avian Flu solicitors deal with claims using a no win no fee arrangement which means that if you don�t win then you don�t pay them their professional costs. If you would like legal advice at no cost with no further obligation just complete the contact form or email our lawyers offices or use the helpline and an Avian Flu solicitor will review your medical negligence compensation claim and phone you immediately.

HELPLINE: ☎ 1800 633 634

The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here