What is Bird Flu (H5N1)?

NewsGuard 100/100 Score

Bird flu or avian flu is a highly contagious viral infection that is transmitted between birds and on rare occasions, from birds to humans.

There are several varieties of bird flu, the majority of which do not affect humans. However, two types of bird flu have caused a lot of concern over recent years. These are the H5N1 virus, which was found to infect humans in 1997 and the H7N9 virus which infected humans in 2013.

Although these viruses are not usually spread between humans, they have claimed the lives of a number of people. Other strains of the bird flu virus that can infect humans include H7N7 and H9N2, although these strains do not usually cause severe illness.

Sampling for bird flu
Sampling for bird flu

The H5N1 virus affects a wide variety of bird species including chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys. It can be passed between commercial, wild and pet birds. Birds do not always develop symptoms of infection, so seemingly healthy birds may still pose a risk to people who come into contact with them.

As with other forms of flu, bird flu is typically gives rise to symptoms such as a high fever, muscle pain, headache, a runny nose and a cough. People who develop a cough generally go on to develop more severe respiratory symptoms such as pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome. Serious respiratory problems can lead to respiratory failure and require mechanical ventilation. Other symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, abdominal pain and bleeding from the nose and gums.

Humans are unlikely to transmit bird flu unless they have been in contact with birds from an area where there has been an outbreak of the infection. The birds can spread the virus to other birds through their droppings, nasal secretion and saliva. This can occur if direct contact is made with these bodily secretions or if contact is made with contaminated surfaces. In areas where outbreaks have occurred such as south Asia, humans, pigs and birds have been crowded into close quarters, providing an environment where the virus is more likely to mutate into a strain that can infect humans. Human-to-human transmission of bird flu is extremely rare, with the last case suspected to have occurred in 2006 between family members in Sumatra.

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jun 20, 2023

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

Citations

Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Mandal, Ananya. (2023, June 20). What is Bird Flu (H5N1)?. News-Medical. Retrieved on April 15, 2024 from https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Bird-Flu-(H5N1).aspx.

  • MLA

    Mandal, Ananya. "What is Bird Flu (H5N1)?". News-Medical. 15 April 2024. <https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Bird-Flu-(H5N1).aspx>.

  • Chicago

    Mandal, Ananya. "What is Bird Flu (H5N1)?". News-Medical. https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Bird-Flu-(H5N1).aspx. (accessed April 15, 2024).

  • Harvard

    Mandal, Ananya. 2023. What is Bird Flu (H5N1)?. News-Medical, viewed 15 April 2024, https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Bird-Flu-(H5N1).aspx.

Comments

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment
Post

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.

You might also like...
Avian flu decimates 5% of Peru's sea lions, sparking conservation alarm