What is H5N1 avian flu and how to protect yourself: we clarify doubts about the outbreak in the US.

The H5N1 bird flu has caused alert in parts of the United States after cases of infected farm animals and the three infections recorded in humans who were in contact with cows. So far the only reported death has occurred in Mexico according to the UN. But the country's Health Secretary, Jorge Alcocer, has denied that the death is linked to the H5N2 strain.

The American Medical Association explains the keys to the virus:

What is H5N1 bird flu?

It is a type of virus that causes a serious, highly infectious respiratory disease in birds, which has been causing outbreaks in farm animals and dairy cows. Although there is a low risk to the broader community, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is monitoring the situation closely.

What are the symptoms of H5N1 bird flu?

A person infected with the virus may have no symptoms, have flu-like symptoms, or may require hospitalization. Among the most common discomforts, which coincide with those of the flu: cough, sore throat, redness or discharge from the eyes, muscle aches and headaches. However, shortness of breath and seizures can also occur in the case of a more serious infection, according to the association's experts.

How long does it take for symptoms to appear?

The AMA explains that anyone exposed to the virus should be under medical care daily to detect signs and symptoms of possible more serious illness in the following 10 days. The incubation period in humans, although it depends on several factors, is usually three to five days, although cases have been recorded in which it was seven to 10 days.

How is H5N1 bird flu diagnosed?

Infection in people cannot be diagnosed by clinical symptoms alone, but laboratory tests are required to confirm it. Once this has been finalized, doctors must inform health departments to arrange screening tests and collect samples from the infected patient.

Who is at risk of contracting bird flu?

Although the risk is low for the general public in the United States, people who work with or are exposed to poultry, farm animals, or cows are at higher risk.

How is it transmitted to humans?

Although it is rare for this to happen, when it has occurred, in most cases they have been infected through close, prolonged and unprotected contact with infected birds or other animals. Transmission occurs when the virus comes into contact with a person's eyes, nose, or mouth, or is inhaled when it is in the air as droplets or dust, the CDC reported.

How to prevent infections?

The WADA recommends that anyone who develops an illness consistent with influenza or who has had recent exposure to birds or other animals that may have been infected undergo standard isolation precautions and undergo a medical evaluation. .

What treatments are available?

There is an FDA-approved antiviral treatment for seasonal flu that can be used. In addition, antiviral treatment with the drug oseltamivir is also recommended as soon as possible for outpatients and hospitalized patients who are suspected or confirmed cases, and until laboratory test results are obtained. If there are no signs of spread between people, those infected should isolate themselves.

Are antiviral drugs effective against H5N1 bird flu?

For greatest effectiveness, antiviral treatment should be initiated soon after the onset of symptoms and even immediately after unprotected exposure. CDC continually tests these viruses to see if they are resistant to antivirals.

Is there a vaccine?

The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has assured that there is an active plan to produce 4.8 million doses against the H5N1 bird flu already approved by the authorities, in the event of a pandemic.

What precautions are being taken to control the spread of the virus?

Although testing declines over the summer, CDC is working on a plan to improve surveillance of the virus across the country, including increasing the number of samples tested and then subtyping in public health laboratories. they can detect it. The Government is also offering money to dairy farm owners to encourage broader testing of their livestock and to increase safety measures to control the growing outbreak.

What can you do to protect yourself and your family?

Although the virus does not spread among humans, the best prevention is to avoid sources of exposure. That means avoiding direct contact with wild birds and other infected or suspected animals. In particular, wild birds, which may be infected, even if they don't look like it. It is also important to stay away from dead animals or places with feces, raw milk, saliva, mucus, and, as the CDC has reported countless times, not to eat raw or undercooked foods.

Is it advisable to drink milk?

The FDA has been testing samples of milk and other dairy products, with no infectious viruses found in the products to date.