What Is Bird Flu and Is It Harmful to Humans? Experts Explain

Bird flu has been making headlines for months. Since February, it has killed 36.6 million birds within the U.S., a few of whom have been put to dying to maintain the an infection from spreading, in accordance with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The excellent news is that hen flu not often infects people, and thus far, solely two human instances have been reported.

The first human an infection occurred in late 2021 within the United Kingdom, and it didn’t unfold to anybody else. The most up-to-date case popped up on the finish of April in Colorado, and it additionally appears to be an remoted an infection. Both individuals who contracted this pressure of hen flu have been working carefully with birds, in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC stresses that well being danger to the general public stays low. But you most likely nonetheless have questions, like what is hen flu, precisely? And how would I do know if I’ve it? Here, infectious illness consultants clarify all the things you might want to know.

What is hen flu, precisely?

Bird flu, also called avian flu, is a illness attributable to a household of viruses generally known as avian influenza Type A viruses, in accordance with the CDC. The virus originates in wild birds, however it will probably unfold to home poultry and different animals, inflicting giant outbreaks. Bird flu spreads when contaminated birds shed the virus of their saliva, mucus, and poop, the CDC explains. Just just like the human flu, the virus can mutate—the pressure that’s at present circulating is known as H5N1, and it’s extraordinarily contagious amongst birds.

How can hen flu infect people?

“Bird flu mainly infects and spreads within bird populations, but occasionally it can spread to other species, as well—including humans,” Thomas Russo, MD, professor and chief of infectious illness on the University at Buffalo in New York, tells SELF.

Indeed, the CDC notes that it’s uncommon for hen flu to contaminate people. But when it does occur, it’s as a result of somebody has been in shut quarters with birds on a farm, or they work with animals. “Sometimes, if you live or work closely with birds, the virus manages to get into you and cause illness—but it rarely spreads to others,” William Schaffner, MD, an infectious illness specialist and professor on the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, tells SELF.

Why doesn’t hen flu unfold simply from individual to individual? It could possibly be as a result of hen viruses have a tough time latching on to cells in our nostril and throat within the first place, in accordance with an older research revealed within the journal Nature. The common flu latches on simply, however the hen flu (fortunately) doesn’t. 1 This signifies that the virus can’t get into our cells effectively sufficient to trigger an an infection. Since hen flu doesn’t unfold simply from hen to human, it doesn’t readily transmit from individual to individual both.

What are the signs of hen flu?

The signs of hen flu in people are much like these of the human flu (suppose: Fever, cough, sore throat, runny nostril, muscle aches, fatigue, and shortness of breath), they usually can vary from delicate to extreme, in accordance with the CDC. In some instances, “You can get very sick,” Dr. Schaffner notes. Other much less frequent signs could embrace nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, or seizures, per the CDC.

How can I keep away from hen flu?

Again, the possibilities of you contracting hen flu are tremendous low, except you’re employed with birds. If you do, the CDC has an inventory of suggestions for minimizing your danger. The most necessary factor to do is put on protecting gear, similar to gloves, a medical-grade face masks, and eye safety when working with birds. Afterward, it’s necessary to scrub your arms with cleaning soap and water, change your garments, after which throw away your gloves and face masks to keep away from contamination.

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