Avian Influenza: What is

Avian influenza is an animal disease known for a long time, which usually affects birds. It is caused by several subtypes family influenza A. Each subtype has several strains whose ability to transmit and sicken vary by case. Thus, the infected birds are more or less ill with the strain of virus. In some cases, the birds do not have symptoms. In other cases, they are slightly ill or can sometimes die.

In rare cases and under specific conditions, it may happen that a strain of avian influenza could also be transmitted to mammals, so to humans. This is the case of a strain of the H5N1 avian virus that emerged in Asia in 1996. This strain turns deadly for birds and has the ability to be transmitted to humans under certain conditions. It creates anxiety, because it is easily transmitted between wild birds and can decimate complete poultry farms within days.

In recent months, the Asian strain of H5N1 influenza virus was spread to Europe, the Middle East and Africa by birds during migration or by legal or illegal business activities. To contain this outbreak (epidemic animal disease), health authorities in many countries have had to slaughter millions of poultry and strengthen their biosecurity measures and their import and export regulations to prevent it have catastrophic economic consequences and causes serious food supply problems.

Currently, there is no pandemic (worldwide epidemic of human disease) avian influenza. There are only a few isolated cases of zoonosis (animal disease caught occasionally by man) due to the avian virus.