What is avian flu ?

Avian flu is the general term for any kind of flu virus that spread among birds and chickens. These kinds of flu result in huge economic losses and health concerns regarding outbreak since histories of avian flu in 1918 and 1919 as well as in 2005 has caused millions of people’s lives worldwide. Since these unfortunate deaths, many people are concerned that the virus may transform into human-transmittable forms and cause a massive epidemic. Fortunately, this has not happened yet.

The ‘influenza A virus’ causes Avian flu. It is part of a viral genus called ‘Influenzavirus A’ and the viral family ‘Orthomyoviridae’. The term Avian Flu is only used when the virus infects birds. When the virus affects humans and other animals, it is called dog flu, cat flu, horse flu, human flu and so on.

The genetic information of the Influenza A virus is stored in 8 linear RNA segments. Since its genetic information recombines with infected host cells, it then produces new strains, making existing antiviral drugs obsolete in just a couple of years. When this kind of mutation occurs, especially during flu season, the virus reproduces continuously, eventually reproducing millions of times.

The most dangerous strain of the avian flu is H5N1, which caused the panic in Southeast Asian countries in 2005 wherein the virus spread from chickens to humans in thousands of instances. Although people in direct contact with chickens were the only ones infected and no human-to-human transmission occurred, it caused the death of half of the infected people.

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