It’s not only humans that get the flu, animals do too. Cats, dogs, cows, pigs, and birds all have their own flu virus, and avian flu, also known as bird flu, affects poultry (including chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese), wild birds and even pet birds, like budgies and parrots.
There are many types of bird flu, and most are harmless to humans, however occasionally, in rare cases where bird flu does infect humans, the consequences can be serious. Transmission usually occurs via direct from an infected bird. It’s worth noting that not all birds get sick from the infection. This means a seemingly healthy bird can still pose a health risk Learn more about bird flu causes, symptoms and how to prevent it below.
Bird flu is spread through direct and prolonged contact with infected birds. These can be dead or alive, and include infected bird’s droppings, inhaling droplets sneezed by infected birds, and slaughtering, butchering and preparing infected poultry for cooking. Although human to human transmission does not usually occur, outbreaks can happen due to this direct bird contact and unfortunately, this may result in a number of deaths.
The incubation period for bird flu is 2-8 days which is longer than seasonal flu and in some cases can be as long at 17 days.
How long is bird flu contagious? Seven days from when the symptoms of bird flu first appear, though people are generally not contagious after five.
Typical symptoms of bird flu include:
- Aching muscles
- High temperature
- Cough anf runny nose
- In some cases, bleeding from the gums and nose
- Diarrhoea or vomiting
- Shortness of breath
The symptoms are very similar to seasonal flu (apart from bleeding gums and nose), so if you have any of the above, you shouldn’t presume you have bird flu. If you’re concerned, see your GP or healthcare advisor.
There’s very little you can do to stop bird flu spreading between birds, but there are a number of ways you can protect yourself and your family. For example:
- Avoid direct contact with birds: To reduce your potential exposure to the bird flu virus during an outbreak avoid visiting live animal markets and poultry farms or any surfaces contaminated with bird droppings. Avoid touching birds particularly if they are sick or dead.
- Regular hand washing: as with the seasonal flu, regular hand washing with soap is critical to stop the spread of the illness causing germs. If you do come in contact with birds, their secretions or droppings, wash your hands thoroughly using soap and water.
Myths and Truths
Q. You can catch bird flu from eating infected poultry
If infected poultry hasn’t been cooked sufficiently, then yes, but bird flu cannot be transmitted through poultry or eggs that has been well cooked, killing off the virus responsible for the disease.