Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 7, Tuesday February 12, 2008














red alert...or is it

Flu facts
Avian influenza best known as bird flu is a viral infection of the virus named H5N1. This infects bird species, mainly chickens, and rarely hogs. Though mild in nature, it can kill birds within 48 hours. Humans can also be infected by avian influenza however the number of noted cases remains small. The spread of infection takes place through direct contact with infected birds or their waste products. Depending on the viral type, the infections can range from mild influenza to severe respiratory problems or death.

Signs to symptoms
In case of humans, avian flu incubates in the body and begins to develop within one to five days of exposure to the virus. Most often, signs and symptoms of bird flu resemble those of conventional influenza, including cough, fever, sore throat, muscle pain along with relatively mild eye infection (conjunctivitis) is sometimes the only indication of the disease. Gradually people with bird flu also may develop life threatening complications, particularly viral pneumonia and acute respiratory distress causing death.

Cause of death
Contagious by instinct, this virus doesn't need a third party. People become sick after direct contact with infected birds or bird-contaminated surfaces. Carriers of flu virus, shed the virus in their feathers, droppings, saliva and nasal secretions. Heat destroys the virus, but it can survive for extended periods in cool temperatures.

Prevention is better than cure
There currently is no scientific evidence that people have been infected with bird flu by eating safely handled and properly cooked poultry or eggs.

Wash your hands with soap and warm water before and after handling raw poultry and eggs.

Boiled food is always safe to eat. In fact the virus cannot withstand a temperature beyond 60 degrees Celsius. So, cook chickens and eggs above 70 degree Celsius to kill the virus.

Steer clear of raw eggs. Because eggshells are often contaminated with bird droppings, avoid mayonnaise and any other foods containing raw or undercooked eggs. Cook eggs until whites and yolks are firm.

Carefully wash cutting boards, utensils and all surfaces that have come into contact with raw poultry in hot, soapy water to keep raw poultry from contaminating other foods.

Watch your kids. Young children seem especially vulnerable to the virus. Because, children are more likely to have contact with sick birds or to play on ground contaminated with droppings. Keep a careful eye on them, as they are likely to put their hands in their mouths and may not wash thoroughly afterwards.

Special care must be taken if you have poultry nearby or as pets. Faecal matter of birds should be carefully handed and washing hands with soap and preferably warm water is a must. If you see signs of sickness in pet birds, it would be best to put them to sleep.

We are very inattentive towards hygiene and most are malnourished with a weak immune system, which means that if this flu virus is to mutate, it will spell disaster. So when simple awareness can wither the danger, why not try it!

By Md Shamiul Haque (Rossi)



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