How is avian influenza treated?

Updated: Feb 12, 2020
  • Author: Nicholas John Bennett, MBBCh, PhD, MA(Cantab), FAAP; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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The mainstay of treatment is the administration of antiviral medication.

Supportive care such as oxygen therapy, intravenous fluids and parenteral nutrition may be needed.

Severe cases may require ventilatory support with intubation and low-volume (high-frequency) ventilation.

Antiviral therapy should be tailored to the patient's age and the antiviral resistance profile of the virus from the area of exposure. Therapy should be initiated even when the presentation is late.

Antibiotics may be needed to treat bacterial pneumonia but are not empirically necessary.

Steroids have not been shown to be beneficial, except perhaps in the setting of sepsis with adrenal insufficiency. [14]

Baloxavir acid (BXA) and its prodrug baloxavir marboxil (BXM) have shown promise in the treatment of H7N9 influenza in vitro and in vivo. In a mouse model, BXM administration provided complete protection from a lethal A/Anhui/1/2013 (H7N9) challenge, and this treatment proved effective even after delayed treatment (up to 48 hours following infection) and at higher virus doses, supporting investigation in humans. [15]

An important consideration is that of infection control and prevention of transmission to other patients and health care workers. Droplet precautions should be used, including eye protection. No evidence shows that airborne spread is possible, but, if fine aerosols are expected because of specific procedures, a particulate respirator should be properly fitted and used.

Adults and children older than 12 years require one week of infection-control precautions, from the initial onset of symptoms. Children younger than 12 years may shed high titers of human influenza virus for up to 21 days after the illness onset, and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the same duration for avian influenza precautions. [14]

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