More Details on Avian Influenza

Pandemic Versus Seasonal Outbreak of Avian Influenza

Scientists are worried that avian influenza could become an influenza pandemic. An influenza pandemic is different from a seasonal outbreak, or epidemic, of influenza. Seasonal outbreaks are caused by subtypes of influenza viruses that already circulate among people, whereas pandemic outbreaks are caused by:
  • New subtypes
  • Subtypes that have never circulated among people
  • Subtypes that have not circulated among people for a long time.
Past influenza pandemics have led to high levels of illness, death, social disruption, and economic loss.

Human Symptoms of Avian Influenza

Symptoms of avian influenza in humans have ranged from typical influenza-like symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat, and muscle aches) to eye infections, pneumonia, severe respiratory diseases (such as acute respiratory distress), and other severe and life-threatening complications. The symptoms may depend on which virus caused the infection.

Prevention and Treatment of Avian Influenza

Vaccines to protect humans against the H5N1 virus currently are under development. In addition, research is underway on methods to make large quantities of avian influenza vaccine more quickly. Studies done in laboratories suggest that the prescription medicines approved in the United States for human influenza viruses should work in treating avian influenza infection in humans. However, the viruses can become resistant to these drugs, so these medications may not always work. Additional studies are needed to demonstrate the effectiveness of these medicines in the long term.
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