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Avian Influenza (bird flu)

What is Avian Influenza / Bird flu?

Avian Influenza, also called the H5N1 virus or Bird Flu, is a virus that primarily infects birds. Although rare, Avian Influenza can be transferred to humans who are in contact with infected birds. Once contracted by a human, the virus can be passed from person to person.

Which countries have the greatest rish of Avian Influenza?

Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam are countries that have been identified with outbreaks of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu). Travellers to these countries are advised to follow standard health recommendations for that region and, as a precaution, avoid places such as poultry farms and bird markets where live poultry are raised or kept, and avoid contact with sick or dead poultry.

How do you get infected by Avian Influenza / Bird flu?

People are primarily infected with Avian Influenza / Bird Flu through direct contact with live or dead birds that are infected or contaminated environments. In rare cases the infected person can transmit it to other people. However there is no evidence to suggest that the virus can easily and effectively pass from person to person.

You cannot get infected by the virus when eating properly prepared and cooked poultry or eggs.

How can I reduce the risk of contracting Avian Influenza / Bird flu?

You can reduce the risk of being infected by Bird Flu when travelling to Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand or Vietnam by:

  • avoiding contact with infected birds
  • avoiding places such as poultry farms and bird markets where live poultry are raised or kept, and avoid contact with sick or dead poultry
  • cleaning your hands often by using soap and water, or alcohol-based waterless hand rubs as this will remove potentially infectious materials from your skin thereby preventing disease transmission
  • ensuring any uncooked poultry and eggs are hygienically handled, paying special attention to frequent and proper handwashing techniques
  • ensuring any eggs or poultry are thoroughly cooked prior to consumption (proper cooking of eggs and poultry will destroy the virus).

What do I do if I get flu-like symptoms after traveling?

An infection of Avian Influenza / Bird Flu will result in similar symptoms to those for people who have the flu, although the severity of the illness may differ from person to person. Symptoms are generally experienced from two to eight days after exposure and may last up to seven days. Adults are generally infectious for at least seven days, whilst children can be infectious for up to 21 days.

Symptoms can range from mild conjunctivitis through to sever pneumonia or even death, although the number of fatalities in humans is relatively small compared the number of outbreaks in birds.

Should you become unwell with influenza-like symptoms, such as fever or cough, during or after your travels, contact a doctor and inform the doctor of your recent travels.

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