Seasonal flu, avian flu, and pandemic flu are not the same.
Avian influenza is a disease found among poultry. Avian flu viruses can infect chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, ducks, geese and guinea fowl as well as a wide variety of other birds, including migratory waterfowl. Each year, there is a flu season for birds just as there is for humans and, as with people, some forms of the flu are worse than others.
Avian flu is primarily spread by direct contact between healthy birds and infected birds, and through indirect contact with contaminated equipment and materials. The virus is excreted through the feces of infected birds and through secretions from the nose, mouth and eyes.
Transmission of Influenza between animals and people
Although it is unusual for people to get influenza virus infections directly from animals, sporadic human infections and outbreaks caused by certain avian influenza viruses and pig influenza viruses have been reported. The World Health Organization (WHO) maintains situation updates and cumulative reports of human cases of avian influenza (H5N1) and shows more than 100 confirmed human cases since 1997. Because of concerns about the potential for more widespread infection in the human population, public health authorities closely monitor outbreaks of human illness associated with avian influenza.
To date, human infections with avian influenza viruses detected since 1997 have not resulted in sustained human-to-human transmission. However, because influenza viruses have the potential to change and gain the ability to spread easily between people, monitoring for human infection and person-to-person transmission is important.
Symptoms of Avian Flu in Humans
The reported symptoms of avian influenza in humans have ranged from typical influenza-like symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, sore throat, and muscle aches) to eye infections (conjunctivitis), pneumonia, acute respiratory distress, pneumonia and other severe and life-threatening complications.
How is avian influenza detected in humans?
A laboratory test is needed to confirm avian influenza in humans.
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. Additional studies are needed to determine the effectiveness of these medicines.
Is there a risk for becoming infected with avian influenza by eating poultry?
There is no evidence that properly cooked poultry or eggs can be a source of infection for avian influenza viruses. For more information about avian influenza and food safety issues, visit the World Health Organization Web site.
The U.S. government carefully controls domestic and imported food products, and in 2004 issued a ban on importation of poultry from countries affected by avian influenza viruses, including the H5N1 strain. For more information, see Embargo of Birds.
Does the current seasonal influenza vaccine protect me from avian influenza?
No. Influenza vaccine for the 2005-06 season does not provide protection against avian influenza. However, public health officials recommend annual flu shots to prevent illness and death from the flu viruses that are currently circulating.