Bird Flu: Transmission, Symptoms, and Treatment of Avian Influenza


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The H5N1 virus. Photo by the CDC

The H5N1 virus causes very serious symptoms. Photo by the CDC

Avian Influenza: Serious Illness

Most people will require ventilation support within forty-eight hours after admission, and will be placed in ICU because of multiorgan failure and possible hypotension – as a result, patients will undergo monitoring, diagnostic testing, and antiviral therapy during their stay. Broad-spectrum antibiotics, antiviral agents, with or without corticosteroids have been used in most cases.

According to the WHO, the overall case fatality rate is 56 percent, occurring nine to ten days after the onset of illness. The highest fatality rate (73 percent) occurs in children 10-19 years of age. The lowest fatality rate (18 percent) occurs in people older than 50 years of age.

Bird Flu Prevention

The best way to prevent the bird flu is to avoid prolonged contact with infected birds (dead or alive). People who work on poultry farms or respond to bird flu cases have to follow specific guidelines and wear protective equipment to avoid catching the virus.

Although other countries are seeing cases of H5N1, there haven’t been any reports of H5N1 in humans or in wild birds or poultry here in the United States, according to the CDC. Although bird flu is a very serious illness, it does not transmit efficiently between people, so the chances of a serious health crisis for the general public as a result of avian influenza are slim.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in People. Accessed February 15, 2013.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Avian Influenza Current Situation. Accessed February 15, 2013.

World Health Organization. Avian Influenza Fact Sheet. (2011). Accessed February 15, 2013.

The New England Journal of Medicine. Avian Influenza (H5N1) Infection in Humans. (2005). Vol. 353: 1374-1385. 29. Accessed February 15, 2013.

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