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Asia is currently battling a current epidemic that is devastating the poultry industry and posing a horrifying threat to human health.  Avian Influenza (Avian Flu, Bird Flu) is an infectious disease caused by strains (subtypes) of the Influenza A Virus.  The viral disease has killed thousands of domestic poultry – chickens and turkeys; and has led to the culling of millions more to minimize the virus’ rampant spread.

Avian Flu has gained notoriety recently in 1997 and 1998 in Hong Kong where the bird flu had transferred over to infect humans.  There were six deaths all believed to be associated with the Avian Flu virus – subtype H5N1.  This was the first reported incidence of humans dying from the bird flu. 

Scientists believe that the Avian flu virus is able to infect all birds, though some birds are more resistant to the virus than others.  Wild waterfowls (i.e. ducks) can be infected but are more resistant against the disease.  These birds are believed to act as “reservoirs”, or carriers, of the virus.  Domestic poultry like chickens and turkeys are highly susceptible to the disease, with some cases of 100-percent mortality being recorded.  Once a chicken/turkey has caught the virus, the disease can spread like wildfire throughout a farmer’s entire flock causing severe epidemics.  To further prevent the spread of the virus to other farms or other areas, farmers must resort to culling (killing) the rest of their birds.  Similar to Mad Cow’s Disease in livestock, Avian Flu has overwhelmed the Asian poultry industry.  

Avian Flu disease can manifest itself in two forms in birds.  The first form of Avian Flu causes mild illness that can be expressed as ruffled feathers or reduced egg production.  Of greater concern is the second form of Avian Flu, known as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza.  It is this form of disease that is causing the epidemics seen in domestic poultry.  Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza is characterized by being extremely contagious where birds become rapidly sick often leading to death.  Birds can die on the same day that symptoms first appear, and some cases, mortality can approach 100-percent. 

With the findings that Avian Flu is transmissible to humans, which can lead to a deadly consequences, Avian Flu was brought to the forefront of the world’s concerns.  This year, nineteen people in Vietnam had died because of the bird flu virus.  Although, the people have died, the World Health Organization (WHO) are optimistic that there is comparatively little cases of human cases of Avian flu, they are much more concerned about the threat that the Avian Flu will continue to mutate, or will combine with the Human Flu virus, to create a new strain (type) of Flu virus that will be more pathogenic in humans. 

In all human cases of Avian Flu virus, the individuals were in close contact with infected birds.   Birds excrete the virus in their feces, which dries and becomes pulverized as the disbanded particles of feces, containing the virus, become airborne.  Humans contract the virus through inhalation.  In humans, Avian Flu symptoms are similar to other types of influenza.  Symptoms include fever, malaise, sore throats and coughs.  People can also develop conjunctivitis, an inflammation of the conjunctiva - the outermost layer of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelids. 


If you’re interested about the Avian Flu and the Avian Flu Virus, then you have come to the right site.  An exploration on the disease, its history, the virus that causes it, health and economic impacts on birds and humans, and current control measures will be conducted.