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Bird flu - avian influenza
Bird flu is the common name for influenza virus commonly found in birds especially poultry and ducks, which usually do not infect people.

Infection
Infection of humans are rare.
The bird flu virus is found in the intestine of the birds and excreted in faeces. People are infected by inhaling bird flu virus from bird faeces or getting the virus into the eye.
Infections through consumption of poultry meat from infected animals are not known.

Vaccination
There is no vaccine. Vaccines against human flu do not protect against bird flu.

Symptoms
High fever, cough, short of breath and a pneumonia on a X-ray.

Diagnosis
Detection of the virus in sputum.

Treatment
Relenza (zanamivir) or Tamiflu (oseltamivir) may prevent and treat infection if given within 48 hours after the symptoms start.
One tablet Tamiflu daily may prevent infection if started before exposure to bird flu
Tamilflu prevents the virus from penetrating the cells and do therefore not have any effect once the virus are inside the cells.
There are considerable problems with resistance agansit Tamiflu but less against Relenza.

Prevention
Do not visit markets where poultry and ducks which may be infected are sold and do not visit poultry farms with infected animals.

More about bird flu
Influenza virus is grouped according to different so-called H and N proteins (antigens) on the surface of the virus. The present outbreak is caused by influenza virus type H5N1, which has only been found in humans once before.
Bird flu is also known from Europe, where there was a large outbreak in the Netherlands in 2003 with type H7N7. In this outbreak, the people culling the poultry got eye infections (conjunctivitis) and one died of pneumonia.
No traveller to any part of the world have been infected with H5N1 avian influenza virus.

Why is it important to follow the H5N1 outbreak?
Bird flu is normally not a serious treat to humans as long as the virus is not passed between people. The virus use the H and N proteins to adhere to our cells in the upper airways, and should the proteins change so the virus acquires the ability to adhere to our cells (mutate), we can expect a large epidemic with influenza virus H5N1.

Further information:W.H.O. - Avian influenza H5N1

Edited 1 December 2008