Bird flu is a very uncommon disease, so there are many misconceptions about the illness. Many people donâ€™t know that there are many forms to this influenza virus, and many are unaware of how it is contracted. There are some very basic elements to the bird flu virus that all humans should know and understand. The surge of bird flu outbreaks has caused many concerns as the flu season approaches for many countries. The bird flu is an influenza virus type A that usually infects birds, but can also infect pigs and other animals. Chickens and turkeys can be severely affected by the disease, and humans can be infected by the influenza types A, B and C. Genetic changes and sharing can occur in crowded conditions where poultry, pigs and people live in close proximity of each other.
A genetic change can allow a virus to become more infectious to humans and more easily transmitted from person-to-person. The person-to-person transmission causes a pandemic, which is a worldwide outbreak of a new avian influenza a virus between humans. It will likely not cause an epidemic, because epidemics tend to be seasonal and involve viruses that already exist. Some of the symptoms of avian influenza in humans range from typical flu-like symptoms, such as fever, cough and muscle aches to eye infections and pneumonia. If a human is possibly infected, it is recommended that the person discusses their symptoms with their doctor. However, there are no vaccines for this virus, but many people recover from their illness.
The deadliest form of bird flu is the H5N1 strain that spreads and kills rapidly. Chickens can die within hours of being exposed to the virus, and many chickens were slaughtered after the virus was discovered in several areas of Asia. In 1997, the H5N1 virus killed six out of 18 people infected in Hong Kong. It may be possible for an avian-flu virus and human-flu virus to infect the same host animal, such as a human, and swap genes, which produces a hybrid strain. The mutated hybrid strain may combine human-flu virus genes that will allow efficient human-to-human transmission. If this type of mutation occurs in humans, then the human body will have no immunity against the virus. Of course, this transmission can cause a pandemic.
A pandemic occurred in 1957 and 1968, when a virus was created from the mixing of bird-flu genes and human flu genes. This pandemic killed almost two million people. The bird flu can also mutate on its own, which could cause a lethal human infection. The H5N1 virus has undergone several genetic changes, and has become more disease causing since its emergence. This virus can replicate much more effectively and rapidly than the human-flu virus. The bird flu pandemic that occurred in 1918 was said to be caused by an H5N1- like virus. The 1918 pandemic killed nearly 50 million people worldwide. The virus, which spread rapidly, was said to have mutated and jumped into humans.
Many scientists believe that the bird flu pandemic is imminent, because they believe accumulation of a few critical mutations can cause the pandemic. Health officials also believe the world is near an influenza pandemic, and many experts see the culling of Hong Kongâ€™s poultry population in 1997 as an aversion to a pandemic. However, it is unknown what will happen if the H5N1 virus is adapted to grow and spread in humans. Some believe it may be deadlier than it is now, while others believe it may become much less pathogenic (disease causing), and eventually fade, Many are hoping that if the disease is able to spread human-to-human, it will no longer be lethal or less lethal.
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