Avian flu, which was identified more than 100 years ago in Italy, is an infectious disease of birds, and is caused by type A strains of the influenza virus. An outbreak of avian influenza has occurred in number of Asian countries in their domestic and wild bird populations.
Avian flu is a contagious disease and all birds are very susceptible to influenza viruses. These viruses are of different subtypes and subtype H5N1 is the one, which has emerged as a threat to bird’s population and has affected the human’s health as well.
In fact, there is no report of transmission of this disease among humans but those people is likely to be infected who have touched or handled the infected birds directly and do not take preventive measure at the time of outbreak of this disease.
Shigeru Omi, Western Pacific Regional Director of World Health Organization, recently said that “We believe that the world is now in the gravest possible danger of a pandemic” and urged international co-ordination to fight the virus.
Another official of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, Samuel Jutzi said that “there is an increasing risk of avian influenza spread that no poultry-keeping country can afford to ignore it”
Generally, avian influenza gets transmitted to the domesticated birds if direct contact is made with the infected fowl or poultry, or through their saliva, nasal secretion or feces, and sharing of same water or feed that have been contaminated with the virus.
When humans are infected by this virus, the visible symptoms are fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, eye infections, pneumonia, severe respiratory diseases, and other severe and life-threatening complications. But the severity of the infection will depend mostly on the immunity power of an infected person.
Until now, there is no specific drug available for the treatment of H5N1 infection in humans but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the U.S. have suggested that the anti-viral medication oseltamivir phosphate, with the brand name Tamiflu, may be effective in treating avian influenza.
Apart from Tamiflu anti-viral medicines likeamantadine, and relenza has shown its power in preventing the spread of virus inside the body. Both drugs have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of type A influenza illness. Amantadine can prevent 61% of H5N1 cases and 25% of influenza-like illness and relenza, which is available in the form of inhaler and is effective if used within two days of the onset of the influenza symptom.
Avian flu is spreading worldwide because of lack of effective diagnostic tools, and the surveillance system of the infected country. There is an urgent need to educate general public including health officials about the healthy way of tackling such outbreaks. Workers involved in culling process must be given proper clothing and equipment to prevent further spread of the disease.
Moreover, the need of an hour is to minimize the infection rate among poultry and keeping humans free of avian influenza. For this, constant studies are needed to make the available anti-viral medicine more targeted towards the upcoming viruses.
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