Bird Flu: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment
Bird flu or Avian influenza is a viral disease common to birds but has off late spread to humans in Africa and Southeast Asia. A discussion on its symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.
Even though the bird flu or avian influenza virus strain was first discovered in the late Nineties and was common to edible birds like chicken, turkey and ducks, it can and has caused deaths in humans also, particularly in Africa and southeast Asia. It is usually seen in epidemic form and symptoms in humans start showing approximately 2 to 8 days after a human being has been exposed to and caught the virus.
Bird Flu Symptoms
The symptoms are typical of flu or influenza and a patient will develop fever, sore throat, cough and muscle soreness. These are also accompanied by vomiting, nausea, diarrhea and/or eye inflammations. The most worrying thing about the disease is that it quickly progresses to acute pneumonia which may lead to respiratory failure resulting in death.
Bird flu is usually diagnosed by way of conducting a test using the state-of-the-art RT-PCR technology. This amplifies and detects genetic properties of the A/H5 Asian influenza virus that causes the disease. It is first ascertained whether the patient is closely associated with the poultry industry and a specimen of his respiratory secretion is taken for laboratory analysis. The results are usually out within four hours at the most. However, clinical correlation is also necessary with influenza specialists who have prior experience of dealing with such cases. It is also important to remember that a negative lab result does not always indicate the absence of the disease. Even though the disease is generally believed to be non-contagious, there is always the fear of the virus mutating into a deadly form that is likely to spread to humans in epidemic form.
So far the total number of human lives claimed by bird flu has been negligible according to published statistics and therefore, clinical trials have just begun to formulate a treatment procedure for it. The World Health Organization recommends the use of oseltamivir or Tamiflu, an antiviral medication. There is another drug, zanamivir which is known to effective in treating this H5N1 virus but their credentials and effectiveness still need to be firmly established.
In sum, a patient of bird flu needs to be isolated first and his vital functions, particularly respiration, should be closely monitored. Because there is always a nagging fear of his condition turning into acute pneumonia, regular chest x-rays to check on the lungs are advised as also monitoring of body temperature. Regular immunity building tonics are also advised to boost and strengthen the body’s immunity system.