It is not fresh news to hear about the bird flu virus that has been hitting the Asia Pacific and other regions around the world. Just like people, birds get the flu. This virus infects birds like chickens, other poultry, and wild birds such as ducks. Thus far, the Bird Flu virus has been monitored to affect several species of birds. However, what is alarming about the said contagion is that it can also affect human beings.
The first Bird Flu case that infected a human, and clinically dubbed as H5N1, occured in Hong Kong last 1997. Since then, there have been other reports of bird flu virus infections in Asia, Europe, and Africa. During an outbreak of the virus, people who have make contact with infected birds get sick. It is possible to catch Bird Flu by eating poultry that is not well-cooked or through contact with a person who has contracted the virus.
In recent news, Bird Flu cases have been on the rise and has caused worry among health officials. According to Dr. David Nabarro, the UN coordinator for Avian and Human Influenza, several countries have made progress in containing the virus’ spread, but there remain some problem areas. In Indonesia, which announced the death of the 91st victim and in Vietnam whose health department confirmed the spread of one of the strains of the disease to a sixth province. The ministry of Health of Indonesia announced a human death from infection of H5N1 avian flu. Last November 5, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that a 30-year old woman from Banten Province, Indonesia developed symptoms such as high fever, cough, and muscle aches last October 3. The woman was reportedly hospitalized on October 31t and died in the hospital last November 3. A WHO investigation has found out that several poultry deaths in the woman’s neighborhood occurred in the days prior to the onset of her symptoms. Another case was reported involving a 31-year old man who died from the bird flu virus last November 10. A total of 91 deaths have occurred due to the outbreak, WHO officials said.
According to WHO, while research is still in the early stages, specifically in the conduct of tests with mice and other mammals in laboratory conditions in Switzerland, the US and Vietnam — it has been determined that blood from survivors may hold the key. The organization is studying medical reports that antibodies from survivors may provide some form of protective benefit. This suggests possible developments in using blood transfusions or blood based cures in similar treatments for humans, but WHO officials warn the studies need further testing.
Of the few bird flu viruses that have crossed the species barrier to infect humans, the infection has caused the largest number of detected cases of severe disease and death in humans. However, it is still possible that those cases in the most severely ill people are more likely to be diagnosed and reported, while milder cases go unnoticed. In order to detect the bird flu virus in humans, a laboratory test is needed to confirm the virus in humans. Two main risks for human health from bird flu includes the risk of direct infection when the virus passes from the bird to humans, sometimes resulting in severe disease and the risk that the virus will change into a form that will be highly infectious for humans and spreads easily from person to person. Symptoms of bird flu in humans have ranged from common human influenza like symptoms such as high fever, sore throat, cough and muscle aches, to pneumonia, eye infections, respiratory diseases, and other severe and life-threatening complications. The symptoms may vary according to the specific virus type and strain that has caused the infection.