Avian influenza also known, as the bird flu, is a virus that infects both wild birds and domestic poultry. Avian influenza is a disease caused by infection of poultry with type A influenza viruses. AI strains are separated into two groups that are based on the capacity of the virus to create disease in poultry. These groups are: low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) and highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).
AI viruses can contaminate chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, ducks, geese and guinea fowl, as well as a large number of other bird types. However, migratory waterfowl have shown to have a natural tank for the less contagious strains of the disease.
Low pathogenic avian influenza happens naturally in wild birds and can migrate to domestic birds. Often times, there are no symptoms that the birds are infected or at best they show signs of very minor illness. This strain of infection is of very little threat to humans.
High pathogenic avian influenza is very often deadly to chickens and turkeys. Highly pathogenic avian influenza spreads a lot faster than low pathogenic avian influenza and has a much larger mortality rate in birds.
Although low pathogenic strains characteristically cause limited or no signs in infected birds, there are still some things to watch for. When symptoms are seen, they can include respiratory problems, diarrhea, a decline in egg production, or an increase in mortality. Under certain field conditions, some low-pathogenic strains (H5 and H7 subtypes) can transform and then become highly pathogenic. As a result, this can cause the deaths of entire flocks
The symptoms of sickness found in domestic poultry that are infected with avian influenza viruses are often inconsistent. The signs seen and how the bird reacts can depend on numerous factors such as the virus strain, age and species of infected birds, concurrent bacterial disease, and the environment. Some symptoms found in infected birds may include: a unexpected death without a noticeable cause, lack of coordination, a purple discoloration of the wattles, combs, and legs, Soft-shelled or malformed eggs, low energy and lackluster appetite, diarrhea, swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, wattles, and hocks, discharge from the nasal passages, a decrease in the production of eggs, coughing or sneezing.
Although a bird may be very healthy looking, it can still be infected with a strain of the avian influenza virus. It is also true that the seriousness of the disease in poultry can also differ during an outbreak.
It is very important that people who work with poultry workers should always be alert and aware of signs of the disease in poultry. This way, if it becomes needed they can take instantaneous steps to protect both themselves and other workers. This may result in quarantining the farm to thwart spreading of the disease. It is also vital that workers report the disease to the appropriate animal health authorities.
It is essential that people working with poultry are very aware of the signs and symptoms of avian influenza virus infection in humans. This is vital so that actions can be taken to give immediate treatment in individuals exposed to the infection.
The signs and symptoms of infection in humans may include fever, cough, sore throat, conjunctivitis (eye infections), and muscle aches. Being infected with avian influenza viruses can also result in pneumonia, acute respiratory distress, and other severe and life-threatening complications. Anyone working with poultry who comes down with any of these symptoms or illnesses, or who might be at risk for being exposed to avian influenza virus should seek medical care. These people should also inform the healthcare provider before they go there that they may have been exposed to avian influenza virus.
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