Bird flu is a strain of influenza that usually only infects birds. It makes them very ill, and is usually fatal. This virus has been found in both wild and domestic birds, like chickens. It is passed through secretions of the birds as well as excretions, like bird droppings. It can also be passed to birds from contaminated water or feed, or dirty cage linings. It has been passed to humans however. Since 1997, 200 humans have been confirmed to have been infected with avian influenza (bird flu). Since the virus could possibly mutate, it could gain the ability to transmit quickly from person to person, but it is not currently been proven to have that ability to any conclusive degree. In a couple of cases of confirmed infection of avian influenza type a, it was considered possible that the virus was spread from person to person, but it could not be confirmed, nor ruled out.
Symptoms of bird flu can be a wide range of things in humans. Some people report fever, cough, sore throat, and muscle aches, just like any other flu. Other people suffer from eye infections, pneumonia, severe respiratory distress, and other severe and life threatening complications. Be on the look out for any flu like symptoms, and see your doctor as soon as possible if you believe you are coming down with any form of the flu.
Bird flu has been resistant to two older flu drugs, amantadine, and rimantadine. There are newer flu drugs though, Tamiflu and Relenza, that are expected to work, but these drug supplies could run out quickly if an outbreak occurs. Further testing is still needed to ensure these drugs will actually work against the avian bird flu virus. Since viruses often mutate and change, and become resistant to particular medications, it is also not recommended that you stockpile any medications for avian influenza. If you do, it’s a waste of money and medication, since by the time you need it, if ever, the medication could be entirely useless. It would also keep medication away from others who do need it, and whose infection has not yet become resistant to the medication.
A pandemic, which is a geographically wide spread outbreak of an illness, is expected from avian influenza. The panic that would likely occur from such a pandemic is likely to be even worse than the pandemic itself. The infection could spread very quickly, and so many people may be caught unprepared that panic is extremely likely. People do not make rational decisions when they are panicked. Its best to prepare yourself ahead of time, just as you would for a natural disaster, like a hurricane.
Make sure you are prepared, calm, and well read. Knowledge goes a really long way, and the more knowledge you have, the better chance you have of coming out on top if and when a pandemic does occur. Knowledge is the first step to a good defense against avian influenza type a.