Avian Flu and Humans
The disease is transmittable to humans by direct or indirect contact with infected birds, mammals (?) and poultry. Till date there have been no recorded instances of transmission of the disease between infected wild birds and humans, and most human cases have been associated with close contact with infected domestic poultry. The risk of a human contracting the disease from a wild bird is remote and , perhaps, hypothetical at present.
There is no hard evidence of human-to-human transmission till date and currently the H5N1 virus strain is not considered to be contagious between humans.
Avian flu first 'jumped' the "species barrier" from birds to humans and caused an outbreak in Hong Kong in 1997. Humans may be infected via close contact with infected birds and by working in an environment that is heavily contaminated with HPAI viruses. You can catch the virus if an infected bird coughs or sneezes directly in your face or if you breathe in particles from the droppings (wind-borne dry dropping particles are a source). Infection has not been transmitted via handling or consumption of poultry products (meat and eggs). Recent developments, however, point at instances of possible transmission of H5N1 viruses through consumption of uncooked duck blood. Therefore, uncooked poultry or poultry products, including blood, should not be consumed.
Influenza viruses are RNA viruses, meaning they lack mechanisms for proofreading and repairing genetic errors. This makes them especially prone to mutation requiring us to reformulate vaccines every year.
Signs and symptoms:
Since H5N1 is an influenza virus, symptoms similar
to those of the common flu, such as fever,
malaise, cough, sore
throat, and sore muscles, can develop
in infected humans. However, in some cases,
severe problems with the respiratory system can develop. Patients with H5N1 avian
influenza have rarely had
unlike human cases of the H7 virus. Persistent high fever is an useful symptom.
The flu vaccine currently in use worldwide protects against different strains of the human flu virus, but offers little protection from bird flu. In August 2005, scientists said they have successfully tested in people a vaccine that they believe can protect against the strain of avian influenza but it may not be readily available in time before a pandemic starts.