What is Bird Flu?

Avian influenza (also known as bird flu) is a type of influenza virulent in birds. It was first identified in Italy in the early 1900s and is now known to exist worldwide.

What are the Symptoms?

Flu can cause fever, chills, headache, dry cough, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, and muscle aches. Unlike other common respiratory infections such as the common cold, influenza can cause extreme fatigue lasting several days to more than a week. Although nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can sometimes accompany influenza infection, especially in children, gastrointestinal symptoms are rarely prominent. The illness that people often call “stomach flu” is not influenza.

*Spread from person to person.

Influenza is spread easily from person to person primarily when an infected person coughs or sneezes. After a person has been infected with the virus, symptoms usually appear within 2 to 4 days. The infection is considered often contagious for another 3 to 4 days after symptoms appear. Because of this, people used to think the flu was caused by the “influence of the stars and planets.” In the 1500s, the Italians called the disease “influenza,” their word for influence. Each year, an estimated 10 to 20 percent of the population contracts influenza.

Treating flu with drugs.

Antibiotics are not effective against flu viruses. However, there are two drugs– amantadine and rimantadine–that can be used to treat some types of influenza infection. When taken within 48 hours after the onset of illness, these drugs can reduce the duration of fever and other symptoms and allows flu sufferers to return to their daily routines more quickly. Both of these drugs are only available by prescription.

Rimantadine is a derivative of the drug amantadine. Amantadine, however, is more likely to cause side effects such as lightheadedness and inability to sleep more often than does rimantadine.

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