Avian flu symptoms in humans are typically similar to those of a general ‘human’ influenza infection. However, due to the current rarity of human avian flu infections and the information from them, the condition could be highly variable in its progression.
Avian flu is caused by an influenza A virus currently with multiple subtypes. The strain currently responsible for the majority of fatal outbreaks in birds and with some spread to humans is avian influenza A subtype H5N1. The common ‘human’ influenzas are typically caused by influenza A virus subtypes H1N1, H1N2, and H3N2.
Wild birds often carry the disease with no ill effects, however, the virus is often fatal in domesticated birds such as chickens, turkeys, and ducks. Of the reported cases in humans, more than half of the cases resulted in death.
The virus spreads quickly amongst bird populations through saliva, feces, and nasal secretions. It is spread to humans who typically have direct contact with domesticated birds and their infected waste. Infected humans are then able to transmit it to other humans.
Avian flu symptoms:
- sore throat
- runny nose
- muscle aches
- possible eye infection
- possible pneumonia
Diagnosis of human infection with the bird flu would be through laboratory testing of blood and secretion samples from an infected individual.
Treatment of human infection is complicated since current antiviral drugs for human influenza either are not effective or have limited evidence that they would be effective against bird flu infection.
Current prevention measures are the monitoring and improvement of domesticated bird farming practices, isolation of infected human individuals, and culling of infected domesticated populations.
Avian flu vaccine research is advancing.