Humans Can't Get Bird Flu from Humans: But that Could Change Soon
Right now, the only way for a human to become infected with a deadly bird virus is through close contact with an infected bird. So why are worldwide health officials talking about a possible an epidemic that could kill millions of people?
Bird flu, or avian flu, is an influenza virusstrain that typically infects birds - including wild birdslike ducks and domestic birds like chickens.
There are many forms of bird flu, and most are relativelyharmless, producing mild symptoms or even no symptoms.However, several strains of bird flu produce a highlycontagious disease that kills quickly and could lead to amassive bird flu epidemic. These dangerous viruses are knownas "highly pathogenic avian influenza."
One such bird flu virus is currently spreading amongchickens in Asian countries. In recent years it wasdiscovered that the bird flu virus can infect people whohave close contact with live birds.
The current strain cannot be passed from human to human, butheath officials say it may mutate and become contagious inour species. If that happens, according to David Nabarro ofthe U.N. and World Health Organization, "an epidemic couldkill between 5 and 150 million people," which would be amuch larger disaster than 2004's Asian Tsunami and 2005'sU.S. hurricanes combined.
Symptoms of bird flu (avian flu) in humans include:
How dangerous is bird flu?
Bird flu can be fatal.
There have been a number of small outbreaks of bird flusince 1997, and people who get it appear to have a highmortality rate.
How can bird flu be treated?
Anyone with bird flu symptoms should see a health careprofessional immediately. The bird flu virus currentlyinfecting birds in Asia that has caused human illness anddeath appears to be resistant to Tamiflu, according toofficials at Queen Mary Hospital in Australia. Tamiflu isthe most common drug used to treat flu in humans.
There currently is no vaccine to protect humans against thestrain of bird flu virus that's been detected in Asia.However, research studies to test a bird flu vaccine toprotect humans began in April 2005.
Additional information and resources, including tips foravoiding bird flu, can be found at bird flu symptoms
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
George McKenzie is a freelance writer and CEO of Mastermind
Learning Systems. He's a former TV news anchor and radio talk show host.