Symptoms of Avian Influenza

Symptoms of avian influenza are similar to the symptoms of the regular flu, and include fever, headaches, body aches, fatigue, sore throat, cough, congestion, and difficulty breathing. Avian flu symptoms may also include diarrhea, which is a less common symptom of the regular flu. Symptoms of avian influenza may vary depending on which type of avian flu it is (there are several different types). Symptoms may be more severe with avian flu than with the regular flu.

Because avian flu symptoms are similar to the symptoms of the regular flu, your doctor may not realize that's what you have. If you think you have been exposed to avian flu, be sure to let your doctor know. Your doctor can do tests to determine if your virus really is avian flu or not.

Avian flu is a flu virus that birds get. Humans can get it from the birds. Humans can also get it from other infected humans. Farmers and others who work with poultry are at risk, but you're not likely to catch avian flu from the birds at your backyard birdfeeder.

There is a vaccine against avian flu, but it's not recommended that the general population take this vaccine. Their risk of exposure is just not that great. If you work with poultry or are concerned that you are at risk for avian flu for some reason, talk to your doctor about whether or not you should be vaccinated. The regular flu vaccine that many people get each fall will not prevent avian flu. Neither will the new swine flu vaccine that is coming out in the fall of 2009.

If you know someone who has avian flu (or symptoms of avian influenza), you should definitely keep your distance from them, as it is very contagious. In fact, it is often recommended that people with avian flu be kept in isolation to prevent spreading it to others. If someone in your household comes down with avian flu, you might be prescribed a medication called oseltamivir (Tamiflu) to prevent you from getting it.

Symptoms of avian influenza are often treated with over-the-counter remedies. For instance, Tylenol can be used to bring down fever and relieve headaches. Decongestants can be used to relieve congestion and make breathing easier. Cough suppressants can be used as necessary. While these things will relieve avian flu symptoms, they are not a cure for the flu.

Prescription antiviral medications are often used to treat avian flu. Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza) can be used to shorten the duration of the flu, but they need to be started within 48 hours of the first symptoms of avian influenza in order to be effective. Some other antiviral medications, such as amantadine and rimantadine, don't appear to be effective in treating avian flu. The virus is believed to be resistant to these drugs.

Antibiotics are not useful in treating avian flu because the flu is caused by a virus, not bacteria.

Difficulty breathing can result from avian flu and some people with avian flu may need to be on a respirator (a breathing machine) for a time. Certainly not all people with avian flu develop this complication, but it is a possibility.

If you think you have avian flu symptoms, you should see your doctor. Let your doctor know when you call to make the appointment that you think you might have avian flu, so the doctor and his or her staff can take steps to protect themselves and other patients.

More than the symptoms of avian influenza on our main swine influenza page

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