Bird Flu Symptoms

What are Bird Flu Symptoms?
Symptoms of avian influenza in humans have ranged from typical human influenza-like symptoms, as noted below, to pneumonia, severe respiratory diseases (such as acute respiratory distress), and other severe and life-threatening complications. The symptoms of avian influenza may depend on which virus caused the infection.

Bird Flu Symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Muscle aches
  • Headache
  • Lethargy
  • Conjunctivitis (eye infections)
  • Breathing problems
  • Chest pains
  • Pneumonia
  • Acute respiratory distress

Unlike normal seasonal influenza, where infection causes only mild respiratory symptoms in most people, the disease caused by H5N1 follows an unusually aggressive clinical course, with rapid deterioration and high fatality. Primary viral pneumonia and multi-organ failure are common. In the present outbreak, more than half of those infected with the virus have died. Most cases have occurred in previously healthy children and young adults.

How is avian influenza detected in humans?

A laboratory test is needed to confirm avian influenza in humans. Avian influenza cannot be diagnosed by bird flu symptoms alone, so a laboratory test is required.

Avian influenza is usually diagnosed by collecting a swab from the nose or throat during the first few days of illness. This swab is then sent to a laboratory, where they will either look for avian influenza virus using a molecular test, or they will try to grow the virus.

How is avian influenza in humans treated?
Studies done in laboratories suggest that the prescription medicines approved for human influenza viruses should work in treating avian influenza infection in humans. However, influenza viruses can become resistant to these drugs, so these medications may not always work.


Current drugs to treat bird flu:

Four different influenza antiviral drugs (oseltamivir, zanamivir, amantadine and rimantadine) are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment and prevention of influenza. All four have activity against influenza A viruses. However, sometimes influenza strains can become resistant to these drugs, and therefore the drugs may not always be effective.

Current recommendations for treatment of patients with confirmed or strongly suspected human infection with the H5N1 virus from the WHO (World Health Organization) include administering oseltamivir treatment (strong recommendation); zanamivir might be used as an alternative (weak recommendation). Clinicians are advised not to administer amantadine or rimantadine alone as a first-line treatment.

Additional studies are needed to determine the effectiveness of these medicines. Monitoring of avian influenza A viruses for resistance to influenza antiviral medications is ongoing.

Does seasonal influenza vaccine  protect against avian influenza infection in people?
No. The "flu shot" (seasonal influenza vaccine) you get in the fall before flu-season does not provide protection against avian influenza.

Research studies to test a vaccine to protect humans against H5N1 virus began in April 2005

The WHO Global Influenza Programme has developed a new recombinant H5N1 vaccine virus. Research is ongoing.

More than a dozen drug companies worldwide are using H5N1 as the basis for vaccines that would protect people from a pandemic caused by the virus.

For more information in addition to bird flu symptoms go to the links below.


Go to What is the Bird Flu FAQs


Avian Influenza - Transmission by Birds


Current Bird Flu Maps


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