Viruses seem to have a mind of their own; navigating between species and changing their genetic material to adapt to the new species. This ability to change makes it difficult to find an effective antiviral medication. The H5N1 virus or bird flu virus is no exception. This virus is normally found in wild migratory bird’s intestines and nasal and saliva secretions.
The wild birds shed the virus and domestic birds come in contact with virus either through water, contaminated feed or soil. Once a domestic bird contracts the disease, it is lethal; the birds sometimes die in less than 24 hours of contracting the virus. H5N1 is an extremely lethal virus. The human body’ s immune system is not adapted to fighting off a H5N1 infection. Since there are no guaranteed antiviral medications, the best cure for this disease is prevention. One of the most effective ways of keeping the bird flu out of a country is preventing it from crossing into the border. One such method used globally is the quarantine of birds. All importation of live animals into most countries is subject to that particular country’s quarantine rules and regulations.
Birds are quarantine or isolated at quarantine centers at a country’s entry port. During the quarantine the birds are isolated and kept under observation for any sign of infectious diseases. Each country uses a distinct protocol to manage their quarantine of birds. Once a bird is presented at a border facility it must be quarantined and a special quarantine facility. The quarantine of birds normally lasts 30 days. During the quarantine period the birds are kept isolated in self contained cages that are bird and vermin proof. Only a few people are allowed to come in contact with the quarantined birds. They are kept at least 400 meters away from other quarantined birds to avoid cross contamination. The birds are check after 12 hours of quarantine, then two weeks later and at the end of the quarantine. After the quarantine of birds period ends, if any of the birds fall sick the entire batch is destroyed. This effectively curtails the spread of the bird flu. Besides quarantine of the birds there are other methods are used to effectively prevent the spread of the bird flu.
Limiting Importation of Birds
It is however impossible to prevent wild birds from migrating across borders, it is possible to stop the other way the birds and poultry cross borders; importation. Importation can be banned or monitored closely of any bird species, be it domestic poultry or exotic wild birds. The American CDC has banned the importation of poultry from most of the Asians nations in a bid to keep the bird flu virus out of the country. There are however illegal bird trading going on and this trade is a part of what is fueling a large percent of the bird flu spread in Asia.
Culling of Birds
Since 1997 when the first cases of H5N1 was observed hundreds of millions of sick birds have been destroyed. The WHO sanctions these actions as this is considered the first line of defense. Culling the infected birds and poultry, stamps out the infected population, effectively stopping the virus from spreading any further.