What is Bird flu?

Bird flu is also called Avian influenza, is a viral infection that can infect not only birds but also humans and other animals. Most forms of the virus are restricted to birds. H5N1 is the most common form of bird flu. It’s deadly to birds and can easily affect humans and other animals that come in contact with a carrier. According to the World Health Organization Trusted Source, H5N1 was first discovered in humans in 1997 and has killed nearly 60% Sources of those infected.


It is not easy for the H5N1 virus to transmit from animals to humans. It is even harder for the virus to pass from person to person. However, if a person with seasonal flu then develops this bird flu, the H5N1 virus may be able to exchange genetic information with the seasonal flu virus. If this happens, the H5N1 virus could gain further ability to spread among people.

Symptoms of Bird flu?

You may have an H5N1 infection if you experience typical flu-like symptoms such as:

  • Cough
  • Diarrhea
  • Respiratory difficulties
  • Fever (over 100.4°F or 38°C)
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Malaise
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat

If you’re exposed to bird flu, you should notify staff before you arrive at the doctor’s office or hospital. Alerting them ahead of time will allow them to take precautions to protect staff and other patients before caring for you.

What is H5N1?

In January 2015, healthcare professionals found a wild duck in the United States that had H5N1 avian flu. Virologists — scientists who focus on viral diseases — have also found the virus in pigs, cats, dogs, and beech martens, as well as leopards and tigers in captivity. The virus spreads easily among birds through their saliva, nasal secretions, feces, and feed. They can acquire the virus from contaminated surfaces, such as cages and other farming equipment.

Most people with the infection have had direct contact with infected poultry or objects that have touched contaminated bird feces or secretions, according to the CDC. The most recent reported incidence of H5N1 bird flu occurred in Malaysia in March 2017. The outbreak killed a number of chickens, but the authorities reported no human infections. According to the WHO, vaccines for H5N1 infection have been developed but are not yet ready for widespread use. Individuals can minimize the spread of bird flu by taking precautions. These include:

  • Hand hygiene: Wash the hands regularly with warm water and soap before and after using the bathroom, handling food, or coughing.
  • Coughing: It is best to cough into an elbow or tissue and carefully dispose of used tissues — also, touching a surface after coughing into the hands can leave the virus on the surface, allowing it to spread.
  • Isolation: Those who have symptoms should stay away from public places and avoid contact with people, whenever possible.

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