Avian Bird Flu Facts, Symptoms and Treatment Options

Avian bird flu also known as avian influenza or bird flu is a viral infection which mainly affects wild and domestic birds. But certain subgroup of influenza type A virus called H5N1 can infect humans. The disease is serious and has high mortality rate. First outbreak of H5N1 influenza A virus was recorded in Hong Kong in May 1997. Since then the disease has covered many parts of the world. Millions of birds and poultry have died because of bird flu. Although the disease spreads rapidly in birds, it is not so common in humans.

However, transmission in humans can occur when people come in contact with infected birds and poultry or the bird feces. Some isolated cases of human to human transmission are also known. Symptoms in humans include sore throat, blood in sputum, high fever, headache, diarrhea etc. There is rapid deterioration of health after the onset of symptoms. Hence necessary steps must be taken to detect and treat the condition as soon as possible. Treatment consists of antiviral medications. Prompt treatment reduces the mortality.

Symptoms of Avian Bird Flu:

Bird flu in humans as well as birds is a serious disease.

After exposure to the virus, person develops symptoms within two to eight days. The initial symptoms are similar to those of regular flu. However, after the onset the symptoms rapid turn more serious and patient’s physical condition rapid deteriorates. Here are the symptoms of avian bird flu in humans.

  • Mild to moderate fever.
  • Lassitude and feeling unwell.
  • Bone and muscle ache.
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Hoarseness of voice.
  • Pain in joints.
  • Backache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Running or blocked nose in the beginning but later on within few days patient may bleed from nose.
  • Pain in chest
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Red and swollen eyes.
  • Blood in sputum
  • Bleeding in gums

The condition deteriorates rapidly and patient develops pneumonia and breathing difficulties.


There are several varieties of influenza virus involved in infecting the bird, but mostly the virus H5N1 is the prominent in infecting humans. Humans become infected with avian bird flu when they come in contact with infected birds or their feces. Humans mostly become infected when they come in contact with chicken droppings or its secretions. Often carrying sick birds or consuming sick birds infected with the disease is risk factor in development of the disease in humans. Slaughtering infected poultry can also increases the risk. People who attend markets where birds are sold are at risk of developing avian bird flu.

Diagnosis and Treatment:

Early diagnosis is important to improve prognosis of the patient. It is very difficult for the doctor to diagnose the disease because the symptoms in the early stage are similar to normal influenza. Hence other important points the doctor takes into consideration is whether the patient come into contact with birds or he has travelled to places where H5N1 infection is rampant. The respiratory specimen and throat swab are collected and sent for laboratory test. Nowadays tests result can be known within one hour.

Avian bird flu is a serious infection in humans as well as birds. It is necessary to start the treatment at an early stage of the disease. If test result conducted and show positive for H5N1 in first 2 to 4 days after the symptoms treatment started during this period usually improves the outcome. Treatment for avian bird flu is use of anti viral medicines. The results are promising if patient is given in first 2 days after the symptoms have started. It reduces mortality. Along with the patient, close contact are also given anti viral treatment as a precautionary preventive measure. In case if the patient is experiencing difficulty in breathing, he may need to be placed on a breathing machine. Some patients may also need antibiotics especially if they are suffering from pneumonia.