Avian Influenza

What is Avian Influenza

Avian influenza is also known as bird flu. Avian influenza is a group of viruses that occur naturally in wild and domestic birds. Avian influenza is easily spread (contagious) among birds and is deadly to them.

Birds become infected when they come into contact with infected birds or contaminated surfaces. The avian influenza viruses are spread from country to country through the international poultry trade or by migrating birds.

Although rare, avian influenza can cause severe illness in humans. It is also rare for there to be human-to-human transmission of avian influenza. However, influenza viruses can change, so human-to-human transmission may become more likely in the future.

What are the causes?

This condition is caused by infected birds that spread avian influenza through their feces, saliva, and fluids from the nose (nasal secretions). Avian influenza can then infect humans who:

  • Come in contact with infected birds. This can happen with a bird that is dead or alive.
  • Breathe in contaminated dust.
  • Touch contaminated surfaces.

What increases the risk?

This condition is more likely to develop in people who come in close contact with birds or poultry.

What are the signs or symptoms?

Symptoms of this condition include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Sore throat.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Tiredness (fatigue).
  • Inflammation or redness of the eyes (conjunctivitis).
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Pain in the abdomen.
  • Seizures.
  • Mental confusion.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition may be diagnosed by:

  • Medical history and physical exam.
  • Chest X-ray.
  • Examination of a fluid sample from your throat or nose.
  • Blood tests.

How is this treated?

This condition may be treated by:

  • Medicines that stop the growth of the viruses in your body (antiviral medicines).
  • Supportive care to relieve your symptoms.

Follow these instructions at home:

  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
  • Use a cool mist humidifier. This makes breathing easier.
  • Rest as directed by your health care provider.
  • Drink enough fluid to keep your urine clear or pale yellow.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash your hands well to prevent the viruses from spreading.
  • Avoid crowded areas. Stay home from work or school until directed by your health care provider.

How is this prevented?

  • Stay home from work and school when you are sick. Not being in contact with other people will help stop the spread of illness.

Cover your mouth and nose with your arm when coughing or sneezing. This may help keep those around you from getting sick.

  • Wash your hands often with warm water and soap. Illnesses are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • If you think that you have been exposed to avian influenza, ask your health care provider about preventive antiviral medicines. These can help prevent infection from occurring.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have a skin rash.
  • You have new symptoms.
  • Your symptoms get worse.
  • You are urinating noticeably less or not at all.
  • Your symptoms do not get better with treatment.

Get help right away if:

  • Your skin or nails turn bluish.
  • You have chest pain.
  • You have trouble breathing.
  • You feel like your heart is fluttering, skipping a beat, or beating faster than normal.
  • You become confused.
  • You have chills, weakness, or light-headedness.
  • You develop a sudden headache.
  • You develop pain in your face or ear.
  • You have severe pain or stiffness in your neck.
  • You cough up blood.
  • You have nausea and vomiting that you cannot control.

Avian Influenza, Pediatric

Avian influenza, also known as bird flu, refers to a group of viruses that occur naturally in wild and domestic birds. This flu spreads easily (is contagious) among birds and is deadly to them. Birds get infected when they come into contact with infected birds or surfaces that have the viruses on them (contaminated surfaces).

In rare cases, bird flu can cause severe illness in humans. It is rare for bird flu to spread from person to person.

What are the causes?

This condition is caused by infected birds that spread bird flu through their feces, saliva, and fluids from the nostrils in their beaks (nasal secretions). Bird flu can then infect a child who:

  • Comes in contact with an infected bird. This can happen with a bird that is dead or alive.
  • Breathes in (inhales) contaminated dust.
  • Touches contaminated surfaces.

What increases the risk?

This condition is more likely to develop in a child who:

  • Comes in close contact with birds or poultry.
  • Travels to or lives in a country where the viruses are common.
  • Eats raw or undercooked wild birds or birds that are raised for food (poultry) that are infected with the viruses.

What are the signs or symptoms?

Symptoms of this condition include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Sore throat.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Tiredness (fatigue).
  • Inflammation or redness of the eyes (conjunctivitis).
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Pain in the abdomen.
  • Seizures.
  • Mental confusion.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition may be diagnosed based on:

  • Medical history and a physical exam.
  • Chest X-ray.
  • Examination of a fluid sample from your child’s throat or nose.
  • Blood tests.

How is this treated?

This condition may be treated with:

  • Medicines that stop the growth of these viruses in your child’s body (antiviral medicines).
  • Supportive care to relieve your child’s symptoms. This may include:
    • Medicines for coughs.
    • Medicines to lower fevers.
    • IV fluids.
    • Oxygen in case of breathing problems (oxygen supplementation).

Follow these instructions at home:

  • Give your child over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your child’s health care provider.
  • Use a cool mist humidifier for your child. This makes breathing easier.
  • Have your child drink enough fluid to keep his or her urine pale yellow.
  • Keep your child home from school until your child’s health care provider says it is safe to return.
  • Make sure that your child:
    • Rests as directed by his or her health care provider.
    • Covers his or her mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
    • Washes his or her hands well with soap and water to prevent the flu from spreading.
    • Avoids crowded areas.

Keep all follow-up visits as told by your child’s health care provider. This is important.

How is this prevented?

  • Keep your child home from school when he or she is sick. Not being in contact with other people will help stop the spread of illness.
  • Have your child cover his or her mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. This may help prevent the spread of sickness to people who are around your child.
  • Have your child wash her or his hands often with warm water and soap. Illnesses are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • If you think that your child has been exposed to bird flu, ask your health care provider about preventive antiviral medicines. These can help prevent infection.
  • Have your child avoid close contact with birds or poultry.

Do notlet your child eat raw or undercooked birds or poultry.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has a skin rash.
  • Your child’s symptoms get worse, and medicines do not help.
  • Your child is urinating much less than normal or not at all.

Get help right away if:

  • Your child’s skin or nails turn bluish.
  • Your child has:
    • Chest pain.
    • Trouble breathing.
    • Chills, weakness, or light-headedness.
    • Severe pain or stiffness in the neck.
    • Nausea and vomiting that he or she cannot control.
  • Your child feels like his or her heart is fluttering, skipping a beat, or beating faster than normal.
  • Your child becomes confused.
  • Your child develops:
    • A sudden headache.
    • Pain in her or his face or ear.
  • Your child coughs up blood.

Summary

  • Avian influenza, also known as bird flu, refers to a group of viruses that occur naturally in wild and domestic birds. Bird flu is rare among humans.
  • Fever is a common symptom of bird flu.
  • Treatment may include medicines that stop the growth of these viruses in your child’s body (antiviral medicines).
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