What you need to know about bird flu

A strain of the H5N8 bird flu virus has been found in Zimbabwe in the last week.

A photo by JOHN TOWNER. unsplash.com/photos/0uN9iF4mgDI

This was at a chicken breeder farm belonging to a commercial poultry company near Harare. As a result 140,000 birds have been culled after 7,000 birds were infected. Figures as high as 715,000

Here are a few things you need to know

What is bird flu?

Birds, just like people, get the flu. Bird flu viruses infect birds, including chickens, other poultry, and wild birds such as ducks. Usually bird flu viruses only infect other birds.

Can people catch bird flu?

It is rare for people to get infected with bird flu viruses, but it can happen. Two types, H5N1 and H7N9, have infected some people during outbreaks in Asia, Africa, the Pacific, the Middle East, and parts of Europe. There have also been some rare cases of other types of bird flu affecting people in the United States.

What about H5N8?

Human infection with the A(H5N8) virus cannot be excluded, although the likelihood is low, based on the limited information obtained to date. Infection occurs when there is close contact with the birds.

What are the symptoms of bird flu?

Bird flu illness in people can range from mild to severe. Often, the symptoms are similar to the seasonal flu, such as

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Eye redness (or conjunctivitis)
  • Difficulty breathing

Public health advice

  • Avoid contact with any birds (poultry or wild birds) or other animals that are sick or are found dead and report them to the relevant authorities.
  • Wash hands properly with soap or a suitable disinfectant.
  • Follow good food safety and good food hygiene practices.

With information from WHO and Medlineplus