H5n1 Avian Flu Causes

Since it was first discovered in humans in 1997, the avian (bird) flu has been a subject of medical concern worldwide. Though H5N1 currently only displays a limited ability to pass on between humans, some researchers are concerned that the avian bird flu will mutate to a form that’s highly contagious within the human population.

There are only two causes of avian flu in humans: contact with the feces or bodily secretions of an infected bird, or contact with an infected person (though the latter is very rare). Eating poultry does not cause bird flu. However, contact with contaminated poultry or eggs is a risk factor for H5N1 if the poultry is not cleaned properly and still contains traces of infected birds’ saliva or feces.

Avian Flu Causes in Birds

Migratory waterfowl can carry a form of the H5N1 virus. Until recently, this strain of the bird flu did not affect domestic birds. During the 1990s, a new strain of the H5N1 virus surfaced, which caused many domestic birds to become fatally ill.

This new strain of virus can be transferred from waterfowl to a variety of birds — including chickens, ducks and turkeys. If a healthy bird comes in contact with the feces or saliva of an infected bird, the H5N1 virus can spread.

Avian Flu Causes in Humans

When a person comes in direct contact with a diseased bird, the H5N1 virus can spread from the infected bird to the individual. This can occur when the person comes in contact with the infected bird’s feces, saliva or secretions from its eyes. The bird flu can also be the result of contact with infected eggs.

Generally, the avian flu does not affect humans. Only those humans who have come in excessive contact with sick birds or diseased meat have contracted the bird flu — and, in rare cases, those who have been in contact with a person with H5N1. Still, scientists are concerned that the current strain of the avian bird flu may mutate, developing a new strain that is easily transmissible between humans.

Eating Poultry: Is it Safe?

The US Food and Drug Administration claims that the avian flu cannot be contracted through poultry consumption. According to the FDA, poultry that is cooked to the right temperature (165 degrees Fahrenheit) is safe for consumption.

Even though the bird flu cannot be contracted through poultry consumption, it’s a good idea to find out where your poultry comes from. While some countries do not allow imported poultry from countries that are known to have H5N1 outbreaks, others are not as stringent.

Furthermore, H5N1 can be contracted by coming in contact with feathers or saliva from infected birds. Therefore, it’s wise to avoid purchasing poultry products from countries that have reported H5N1 outbreaks. As it stands, the avian flu is not a pandemic, though the threat of a mutating bird flu virus is still a possibility.

Resources

BBC News Staff. (2008). Health Q and A: Bird flu. Retrieved April 7, 2010, from the BBC News Web site: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3422839.stm.

CBC News Staff. (2008). The next pandemic? Retrieved April 7, 2010, from the CBC Web site: http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/avianflu/.

E Medicine Health Staff. (2010). Bird flu. Retrieved April 7, 2010, from the E Medicine Health Web site: http://www.emedicinehealth.com/bird_flu/article_em.htm#Bird Flu Causes.

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2010). Bird flu (avian influenza). Retrieved April 7, 2010, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bird-flu/DS00566/DSECTION=symptoms.