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Understanding Bird Flu

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You've probably heard about avian flu, also known as bird flu, and may be wondering if you or your family members are at risk. Here is some information that will help in understanding avian or bird flu.

What is avian or bird flu?

Scientists are concerned that the H5N1strain of bird or avian flu could spread across the globe and become the next flu pandemic, sickening and killing scores of people.

The H5N1 bird flu virus is spread when wild birds pass the virus along to birds such as chickens or ducks that are being raised for human consumption. While the wild birds do not seem to be affected by the virus, the livestock that contract the virus get very sick and many die.

Typically, avian or bird flu is not passed from birds to humans. However, in the past ten years, there have been hundreds of cases of bird flu in humans, and scientists believe that, if it finds a way to spread from person to person, there could be a flu pandemic. Most cases of H5N1 infection are thought to have occurred as a result of direct or close contact with sick or infected poultry. That's because there is no natural immunity from bird flu in humans. Your body cannot develop antibodies, and, typically, hospitalization is required. Because of this, anyone is at risk for avian or bird flu, and that's one thing that raises the concern about a flu pandemic.


What is a flu pandemic?

While a flu pandemic is rare, it happens when a new flu virus spreads to people all over the world. With a flu pandemic, flu vaccine is typically unavailable in the early weeks, and then there is not enough flu vaccine to distribute to the population. With a flu pandemic, hospitals are unlikely to be able to support the scores of patients of all ages who present with serious flu complications. The economy may come to a grinding halt as scores fall ill from a flu virus strain that mystifies experts.

Flu symptoms with a flu pandemic are much more severe than the standard seasonal flu, and greater numbers of humans are at risk as the flu quickly spreads. As more people of all ages fall ill, travel may be restricted, offices and schools may close, and large public gatherings can be banned because these gatherings could become breeding grounds for more cases of an incurable flu.

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