Bird Flu Be careful Avian refers to birds and flu is the common name for influenza. Avian flu is influenza that infects birds, including wild birds such as ducks and domestic birds such as chickens. Avian flu is caused by influenza virus type A. There are 15 subtypes influenza A, two of which affect birds. These are called the H5 and the H7 subtypes.1 These viruses are known as "highly pathogenic (disease-causing) avian influenza" (HPAI). They produce a severe disease in birds and are rapidly fatal, leading to bird flu epidemics. One such bird flu virus (the H5N1 subtype) is currently infecting chickens in Asian countries How is bird flu virus passed from birds to people? When a bird is infected with bird flu, it sheds the flu virus in its faeces, saliva and mucus. Other birds become infected by eating or inhaling the virus. The virus can infect people who are in close contact with infected birds - for example by people inhaling dried faeces that have become trampled into dust or stuck to the feathers or other parts of the body of the infected bird.1 People cannot catch bird flu from eating cooked chickens. Can bird flu be passed from person to person? The ability of bird flu viruses to infect humans throws up this worrying possibility. A bird flu virus could merge with a human flu virus to create a new virus. This new virus could then be passed between humans. If this happens with a highly pathogenic avian influenza virus, the result could be a pandemic of highly contagious flu What are the symptoms of human flu? Human flu symptoms are: fever cough sore throat muscle aches conjunctivitis Cases of bird flu are more likely to cause breathing problems and pneumonia, and can be fatal. Antiviral medications used to treat human flu viruses help to reduce the symptoms of bird flu, but it's not yet clear whether these work for the current type of bird flu.1 DEVS pst...a fish wont get caught if it never opens its mouth...!