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Beware of potential bird flu outbreak

Publication Date : 25-12-2013


Fever, sore throats and coughs are all symptoms of both common flu and bird flu, and so all people with such symptoms are required to receive medical checkups to prevent a potential outbreak.

Director of the National Centre for Epidemiology and Laboratory, Phengta Vongphrachanh, said last week that when the temperature goes down, environmental conditions are more favourable for the outbreak of viruses, including both avian influenza and ordinary flu.

“Affected people find it difficult to tell between the symptoms of the two types of flu if they do not discuss their conditions with doctors in detail,” he said.

According to health officials, it is difficult to differentiate between people infected with regular influenza and those with the H5N1 and H7N9 virus.

However the experience of people who have fallen ill after coming into contact with infected poultry can provide health officials with details of those who need to be screened for both viruses.

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is an acute infection caused by any of the three types of the virus (A, B, or C). Type A strains are normally associated with the most severe symptoms.

Normally, people contract the flu when the weather changes at the end of the rainy season, or in the cool season when temperatures drop suddenly. In Laos, flu occurs throughout the year, but most cycles begin early in the rainy season and when the cold season starts.

It affects people of all ages, although children and the elderly are more at risk of catching it because their immune systems are not as strong.

Common symptoms include a flushed face, body aches and a general lack of energy. Some people experience dizziness and vomiting. A reactive fever usually lasts for a day or two, but can last up to five days .

The virus can settle anywhere in the respiratory tract, producing symptoms typical of a cold, sore throat, bronchitis, ear infection or pneumonia.

The most prominent of the respiratory symptoms is usually a dry, hacking cough.

Most people also develop a sore throat and a headache. Nasal discharge and sneezing are common as well.

These symptoms, except the cough, usually disappear within seven days. Some people experience a second wave of fever at this time.

Coughing and tiredness can last for weeks, once the earlier ailments have subsided.

If a family member catches the flu, he or she should be treated immediately. If not, the flu may transfer to other family members.

Health officials advise that people can avoid the flu by keeping warm at all times. They should also exercise regularly to maintain a healthy body which can better defend itself against infections.

Like other species, birds are susceptible to viruses that cause flu-like symptoms, and to date there are 15 known strains of bird flu. The most contagious strains, which are usually fatal in birds, are H5 and H7.

There are nine different types of H5 avian flu and all take different forms – some are fatal while others are almost harmless.

The strain currently causing widespread concern is the deadly H5N1 virus, which can bind with human receptor cells and likewise cause fatalities.

Luckily it is becoming easier to determine if people have contracted bird flu or ordinary flu. Experts point out that those who have been in contact with poultry that has suddenly died are more likely to have bird flu.

The symptoms are similar to other types of flu. Some people may develop conjunctivitis.

People are advised to avoid contact with the carcasses of birds that have suddenly died. Birds which have died without being slaughtered should be destroyed instead of being eaten.

In addition, all poultry meat should be cooked at temperatures higher than 75 degrees Celsius, as the virus will be killed at this heat.




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