Avian Influenza (Bird Flu): It’s Resurgence, Risks, and Treatment

The Importance of Timely Antibiotic Intervention

They call it the bird flu, but it also affects other animals, and people.

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Making an Unwelcome Comeback

Back in the mid to late 2000’s the bird flu was on a devastating path around the world – killing 53% of humans who contracted it. States of emergency were declared, experimental vaccines developed, and antiviral drugs (such as Oseltamivir) were stockpiled. Since then it was pretty much relegated to wild bird populations, until recently. 

The bird flu has been around for decades and is a constant health risk to wild bird populations, but it normally stays there, amongst wild birds. In more recent years however, it has infiltrated other birds, including commercial poultry animals, and beyond. 

The Current Situation:

In recent months, the world has been grappling with a concerning resurgence of the avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu. This highly pathogenic influenza results in a viral infection, primarily affecting birds, but has raised alarms due to its potential to spread to other birds and mammals, including humans.

The H5N1 strain has been affecting wild birds in the United States since about 1996, but lately has also spread to poultry farms, leading to the culling of millions of birds to prevent further spread. But this has only been partially successful. 

In late March 2024, the virus was detected in dairy cattle in Texas and Kansas, marking the first time it was found in mammals in the U.S. this year.

And there have been two confirmed human cases in the U.S. so far this year. 

The current outbreak of bird flu has been primarily attributed to the H5N1 and the more recent H5N8 strains of the virus. These strains are highly pathogenic, meaning they can cause severe illness and death in birds. The virus is primarily spread through contact with infected birds or their droppings, though it can also be transmitted through contaminated surfaces or objects. It was exposure due to close proximity to infected animals that caused the two human cases. One case involved a worker at a farm with infected cows, and the other case involved a worker at a poultry facility.

 

Risks to Humans:

While H5N1 can infect humans through close contact with infected birds or mammals, the current risk to the general public is considered relatively low. The CDC’s avian influenza risk information changes, and gets updated regularly though.  However it is a non-zero risk. The two human cases in the U.S. this year involved direct contact with infected animals, but there is currently no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission. 

When contracted, the H5N1 strain in particular, has been known to cause severe respiratory illness in humans, with a potential for prolonged health complications if not treated effectively.

Another strain of concern, H5N8, has also shown the ability to infect humans. While human cases of H5N8 have been limited so far, the potential for the virus to mutate and become more transmissible among humans is a significant concern. 

Genetic changes in the virus have enabled the bird flu to spread from wild birds to poultry animals and other mammals, including livestock and humans. And while it doesn’t pose an immediate risk to the general public, the time to prepare yourself for it is before it gets worse – not after.

 

What can we do?

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While we can’t avoid wild birds or poultry altogether, here are some steps we can take to reduce the risks of infection:

 

  1. Avoid Contact with Sick or Dead Birds: Do not handle sick or dead birds, including poultry. If you must handle them, use gloves and other protective gear, and wash your hands thoroughly afterward.
  2. Practice Good Hygiene: Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially after handling birds or visiting places where birds are present. Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth, with unwashed hands.
  3. Cook Poultry Thoroughly: Ensure that poultry, including eggs, is cooked thoroughly before consumption. Cooking at temperatures of 165°F (74°C) kills the bird flu virus.
  4. Avoid Contaminated Surfaces: Avoid contact with surfaces or objects that may be contaminated with bird droppings or secretions.
  5. Limit Exposure to Live Birds: Minimize visits to live bird markets or farms where poultry are raised, especially in areas experiencing bird flu outbreaks.
  6. Stay Informed: Stay updated on the latest developments regarding bird flu outbreaks in your area and follow the advice of health authorities.
  7. Be equipped to treat an infection if it occurs. Keep an antiviral medication on hand. 

 

Antivirals treat Avian Influenza

Antiviral medications, such as Oseltamivir, remain the preferred intervention method for most influenzas including the bird flu. Stopping a viral infection as soon as possible yields the best outcome for patients, and having a medication kit that includes an antiviral is key to being able to intervene quickly in an infection. Early treatment means you’ll feel better faster, and have less disruption to your daily life. It also means you’ll reduce the likelihood of developing further complications.

Our Jase Case  – already full of life saving medications – is also completely customizable, and can be configured to include the antiviral Oseltamivir 75 mg (10 pack) so you have a weapon to wield against the bird flu (and other influenzas).

Customize your Jase Case today, for some certainty in an uncertain world. 

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3 Common Back to School Illnesses Part 1 of 2

Part 1

As summer winds down, children across the nation are returning to school. Whether in public school or homeschooled they will be exposed to more germs as they interact with their peers.

Children aren’t exempt from the annual onslaught of germs. Every year teachers and those who work with children end up with colds, flu and other common illnesses that the new school year brings.

Let’s take a look at 3 common back to school illnesses.

  1. Colds, flu and coronavirus

Colds, flu and coronavirus are all highly contagious and can be almost impossible to avoid. Luckily these illnesses are usually not life threatening and can be managed with symptomatic treatment.

If your child is in a high-risk category, be sure to contact your primary care provider for guidance and follow their recommendations on vaccination and other preventative measures.

To build up and help fight these viruses:

  • Get adequate sleep. Especially during the school year, a set schedule is very important. Sleep is where your body repairs and heals.
  • Avoid sugar. Sugar brings the immune system down.
  • Eat plenty of fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits. At least 4-6 servings a day.
  • Vigorously wash hands in soapy water for 30 seconds.
  • Sneeze and cough into crook of elbow, or tissue. Discard tissue and wash hands.
  • Fresh air and exercise outside, weather permitting. This helps build up the immune system.

Treatment

Many viruses run their course. They provide immunity in the form of antibodies to help combat further exposure to the virus.

To alleviate discomfort associated with viruses:

  • Try over the counter or prescription decongestants, expectorants, cough suppressants and pain relivers as recommended by your primary care provider.
  • Studies on honey as a cough suppressant have been encouraging. Honey with lemon or tea has been a time-honored treatment for sore throats and cough.
  • Diffusers with essential oils such as mint or eucalyptus can help breathing and congestion.
  • A cool mist humidifier can provide relief.
  • Be sure to stay hydrated, especially if running a fever.

2. Head lice (not an illness, however they are common and pesky!)

Head lice are tiny insects that feed on blood from the scalp. They cannot jump or fly and are passed from person to person via direct contact, either from close contact with someone who has lice or sharing combs, brushes, clothing (hats, hoodies, coats)

Identify: If there is an infestation, all household members need to be inspected for lice. Because adult and nymph lice are very small, move quickly, and avoid light, they may be difficult to find. Use of a fine-toothed louse comb may facilitate identification of live lice. Nits (nits are

the empty egg cases attached to hair that head lice hatch from)

Nits frequently are seen on hair behind the ears and near the back of the neck.

Many times, dirt, dust and dander can look like lice and can be misdiagnosed.

Treatment:

Whether using an over the counter or prescription medication to get rid of lice, there are a few very important steps you need to take. A breakdown of the different types of otc and prescription medications from the CDC website can be found here:

Prescription and otc lice treatment

  • Use a fine-tooth comb after applying medication to hair. This removes the dead lice and eggs. Be sure to put on clean clothing after treatment and wash the dirty clothing. Be sure not to use conditioner before applying the lice medication.
  • Do not wash hair for 1-2 days after treatment to assure the lice have been killed
  • While treating for lice, wash all bedding and clothing that may have contact with lice. Wash in hottest water possible and dry on high heat.
  • Vacuum furniture that may have come in contact with lice. Head lice survive less than 1–2 days if they fall off a person and cannot feed; nits cannot hatch and usually die within a week if they are not kept at the same temperature as that found close to the human scalp.
  • Wash combs, brushes, hair clips, etc in hot water for at least 30 minutes to avoid reinfection.
  • Depending on the treatment, you may have to retreat 7-9 days after initial treatment to avoid reinfestation.
  • Note, some anecdotal treatments, with essential oils and mayonnaise (believed to suffocate the lice) may have some effect on killing the lice, however, it is believed that much of the effectiveness of this method is the use of the fine comb, pulling the lice and eggs out of the hair.

When treating head lice

  • Do not treat with same medicine more than twice. If the treatment isn’t effective the lice may have built up a resistance to it.
  • Keep medicine out of the eyes
  • Avoid further skin exposure and able. After using, wash hair in sink, to avoid showering or bathing.
  • For more tips on how to mitigate and treat head lice, visit the CDC website.

3. Pink eye. AKA Conjuctivitis

This is a condition where the conjunctiva, the thin membrane lining the eyelid and eye, becomes infected or irritated. This in turn can leave the white part of the eye pink or red due to the infection or irritation. Eyes become watery, itchy, and discharge, especially upon awakening can appear.

There are three types of pink eye, viral, bacterial, and allergic. Symptoms and treatment vary depending on type of pinkeye.

Viral conjunctivitis

Viral pink eye is caused by a virus such as a cold or other respiratory virus. It starts in one eye and can easily travel to the other eye, and even to other people as it is highly contagious. Antihistamines, decongestants, and eye drops can help symptoms of this type of pink eye.

It usually resolves within 1-2 weeks without treatment.

Bacterial conjunctivitis

This type of pinkeye is caused by bacteria and is highly contagious, just like viral pink eye. There is more mucus and crusty, greenish-yellow discharge associated with bacterial pink eye. Eyelids can stick together from this discharge upon awakening. This type of pink eye needs to be treated with topical antibiotics or drops. It can cause damage to the eye if not treated.

Allergic conjunctivitis

Symptoms include itchy, puffy, watery eyes. As the name implies, this type of pink eye is caused by allergens, such as pollen, pet dander, and dust mites. This type of conjunctivitis is found in both eyes at the same time, and treatment is symptomatic. Antihistamines and eye drops along with avoiding the allergen if possible are among the most effective treatments. Running a hepa filter in the bedroom can help reduce allergens.

Symptomatic treatments of all forms of pink eye

To relieve the discomfort of pink eye

Green tea and tulsi tea bags, steeped and cooled and placed over the eyes can offer some anti-inflammatory and irritated eyes.  Colloidal silver, an antibacterial solution, applied to outside of eyelids when dealing with viral and bacterial forms of pinkeye can help avoid spread of pink eye. Do not replace this with care provided by your primary care provider, however.

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