Bird Flu

Approved Doctor(s) ; Laraine Lynn Washer , Kevin Sellery Gregg • Apr 16, 2024

Table of contents

What is bird flu?

Bird flu, a disease seen in birds, can also be transmitted to humans. Although rare, bird flu symptoms can range from mild illness to severe, fatal conditions. Bird flu, a type of influenza that usually affects wild waterfowl but can also affect poultry and other animals, is caused by viruses belonging to the influenza A type.

The most common virus types that can affect humans are A(H5N1), A(H7N9), and A(H9N2). 
Bird flu is usually seen in people who have had contact with live or dead infected birds. In addition, it can affect domestic poultry, waterfowl, and birds of prey that come into contact with infected wild waterfowl.

Transmission occurs through the saliva, mucus, or feces of infected birds. In rare cases, people who have been in contact with infected birds can transmit the virus to other family members. 

People at highest risk of serious complications after contracting bird flu include: 

  • Pregnant individuals 
  • People with weakened immune systems 
  • Individuals over the age of 65

Diagnosis methods for bird flu

Bird flu cannot be diagnosed based solely on symptoms. Specialists apply special tests with a swab sample taken from the nose or throat. The best results are obtained when the test is conducted early after symptoms develop.

Symptoms of bird flu

The symptoms of bird flu seen in patients can vary.

  • Fever of 37 degrees Celsius or higher 
  • Cough 
  • Body and muscle aches 
  • Sore throat 
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Nasal congestion 
  • Runny nose 
  • Conjunctivitis

In addition to the symptoms mentioned above, bird flu can cause severe respiratory symptoms. These symptoms include: 

In some cases, secondary bacterial infections can develop along with bird flu. Severe cases of bird flu can also show neurological symptoms such as seizures or mental changes. Additionally, the disease can lead to multiple organ failure or septic shock.

Causes of bird flu

Infection can occur if the virus is inhaled as droplets or dust. Additionally, touching the eyes, nose, or mouth after touching something infected can also cause the disease. 

In some cases, it has been observed that bird flu patients contracted the infection from other people. However, this is a rare occurrence.

Treatment methods for bird flu

Bird flu can be treated with antiviral medications. Common antivirals used in treatment include: 

  • Oseltamivir
  • Peramivir
  • Zanamivir

Transmission routes of bird flu

The greatest risk of bird flu is for people working with poultry. The transmission risk is significantly reduced by constantly wearing protective equipment in the poultry sector.

In addition, people who come into contact with wild ducks or other waterfowl should also be cautious in terms of disease risk. Bird flu is transmitted to humans if they touch their eyes, nose, or mouth with contaminated hands.

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