(The common Avian Influenza virus under a microscope.)
Avian Influenza, also known as Influenza, Bird Plague, AI, or Avian Flu, is a worldwide virus, birds being the carriers. It is the most dangerous virus known, to any animal. Avian Influenza is extremely lethal, wide-spreading, and commonly has acute symptoms; it is a virus every chicken raiser and non-chicken raiser should know well.
This virus is wide-spreading and makes chickens drop like flies. Avian Influenza’s main carriers are waterfowl, mostly ducks, which are immune to the virus, but it demises chickens. Wild birds (such as sparrows, robins, and more) are not common carriers of it, strangely. The victims of this virus, chickens, can be immune, but they have to be from special lines, however, with this virus, it is rare. Avian Influenza is a huge problem mainly because it comes through flocks and can wipe out the whole flock in hours.
Avian Influenza’s symptoms are usually unseen. If symptoms are seen, they are: droopiness, listlessness, watery eyes, sneezing, rattling, coughing, ruffled feathers, lacking an appetite, weightless, low fertility, drop in egg production, shell-less eggs, increased interest in broodiness, skin hemorrhages, fever, paralysis, and diarrhea. However, the most common symptoms are sudden death without any symptoms, because it is acute. There is a chronic form, which consists of the symptoms described above.
The chances of a chicken surviving Avian Influenza are low. First, immunity to Avian Influenza is rare. Second, the mortality rate is almost 100% (for the chronic form it is a little lower though). The only treatment is for the chronic form which you can give an antibiotic to prevent further bacterial infection, if the bird survives. Survivors will become carriers for several months, which could risk the lives of copious other birds. The rate of affected, exposed birds is 100%, making it an extremely contagious disease.
Prevention for Avian Influenza is tricky and not always affective. The best way to prevent Avian Influenza in your flock are: in case of outbreak, do not wear the same shoes to your chicken coop as the ones you wore in public, especially the feed store, and never wear the same shoes after you visited some else’s chickens. Second, following the first, do not visit other people’s flocks, it’s far too risky for your chickens, and it would be an easy way to transport the virus to your birds. Three, when you have an infected birds, cull immediately. Most likely, the other birds will receive the virus too, but it is best not to take the chances, or assume they will all get it. If your flock is infected with Avian Influenza (the acute form) report the disease.
Unfortunately, some forms of Avian Influenza affect humans. The most lethal form, H5N1, has been known to kill 300 humans in Asia (the mortality rate is 60%). Catching H5N1 from birds is rare, as humans usually do not come into contact enough to catch it. The only way people have gotten Avian Influenza from chickens, is by coming into contact with the slaughtered birds, whether culled or butchered during the time of infection. Avian Influenza can also be transmitted through seals and cats. However, since some Avian Influenza strains affect swine, in Asian countries, humans sometimes catch the virus from them. H5N1 has never spread from human-to-human, however, considering the fact that Avian Influenza has been known to mutate, it could change. In the past few year, a new strain has been known to affect humans, H7N9, which has killed around 100 people. Strangely, H7N9 does not affect poultry, nor can it be transmitted human-to-human. If the Avian Influenza virus mutates to where it can be transmitted human-to-human, it could spread like a wildfire through humans. The chances of this happening are low, since mutates are not adaptations. Mutations are traits in the DNA that do not come from the offspring’s parent(s).
(The H5N1 [in gold] virus under a microscope.)
Since this virus is so dangerous, it is good to amass knowledge about it, not only because there could be an outbreak in poultry in your area, but even an outbreak in humans. Thanks for reading! Leave a comment if you have any questions.