To lessen your chances of catching an illness from wild birds, you should always wash your hands carefully with soap or hand sanitizer after handling bird feeders, bird nests, birdbaths, or water infected with bird droppings. You should also keep away from touching bird droppings or dead birds. If you absolutely must move a dead bird, use gloves that can be thrown away or double plastic bags.
With that said, there are still ten things you should be aware in regards to the avian flu.
Avian flu viruses have spread among birds throughout the world for many years and are for the most part not a threat to other birds or humans. Although it is not common for humans to catch the disease from birds, when it does happen it is typically because they have been too close to dead or dying birds or their fecal matter.
The avian flu actually results in fewer deaths than any other type of flu. Since 2003, there have only been about 151 people in the whole world who have died because of the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu virus. None of these deaths occurred in the United States. However, because migrating birds are now moving South- and Westward from Russia where their summer feeding grounds are located, there is more of a chance that the virus will spread globally.
In almost all of the cases where humans have become sick due to the H5N1 virus, it has found that these individuals were in close contact with infected poultry or poultry products.
Individuals do not need to give up many of the associated bird activities that they enjoy. It is still safe to feed wild birds, watch birds, and monitor nest boxes. People just need to keep certain safety precautions in mind. These include washing their hands properly, not touching dead birds, and staying away from birdbath water that might harbor fecal matter of potentially contaminated birds.
There are two types of the avian virus, low pathogenic and high pathogenic.
The second is more dangerous and less common. Although the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus does not easily spread from person to person, there is a risk that the virus could change and become more dangerous. However, it is not possible to know when or if this will happen.
The only known cases of humans becoming contaminated with the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus from wild birds were found in Azerbaijan. When this happened, seven people came down with disease after they de-feathered swans, four of these individuals died. Occurrences of the H5N1 virus have been found more frequently among domestic poultry than among wild birds. However, the best way for farmers to keep illness out of their flocks is to practice good bio-security, hygiene and protection measures, which should include disinfections at both the entry to and the exit from farms
Around 200 million domestic chickens, turkeys, geese, and ducks have died from H5N1 infections or have been gathered to prevent the spread of illness. However, the Food Standards Agency has stated that there is no need for people to stop eating poultry or eggs, as they have not been recognized as causing the avian flu in humans.
The highly pathogenic H5N1 virus has been spotted in 45 wild bird species. Although most noted epidemics have been among waterfowl and, to a smaller degree, shorebirds and gulls.
It is possible for wild birds to carry the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus with them when they migrate. Typically though, the virus appears to have been distributed to new areas through the transportation of infected poultry and poultry products.
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