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Resources: Bird Flu

Advice on Bird Flu (OSAC)

The following are several measures that can be taken to help minimize the health risks of H5N1 exposure and infection (compiled from CDC and WHO travelers' health recommendations):

Restrict unnecessary travel to regions that have experienced recent outbreaks, and keep up-to-date on currently infected areas with the links listed below. Watch for special travel advisories from the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs at http://travel.state.gov, and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/.

Make every effort to avoid locations with concentrations of live birds in affected areas, including open-air food markets, small backyard or neighborhood coops, and poultry farms. If you have come into contact with these locations, you should monitor yourself for symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, and difficulty breathing, and be in close consultation with a healthcare provider. Check with your doctor to determine whether you can be using vaccinations against regular human influenza in order to help reduce the likelihood of co-infection, and thus reduce the risk of genetic reassortment. 

Do not eat uncooked or undercooked poultry or poultry products in affected areas, including dishes made with uncooked poultry blood. Additionally, practice safe food preparation techniques, such as keeping raw meat away from ready-to-eat foods, washing hands before and after handling raw meat and eggs, and carefully washing all surfaces and utensils after cooking.

Practice careful and frequent hand-washing. Cleaning your hands often, using either soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rubs when soap is not available, helps remove potentially infectious materials from your skin and prevent disease transmission.

If you have been in a high-risk area and begin showing possible symptoms of influenza, consult a healthcare provider immediately. However, before you visit a health-care setting, tell the provider about your symptoms, whether you have had direct poultry contact, and where you traveled. U.S. embassies and consulates can provide names and addresses of local physicians.

Do not travel while sick, and limit contact with others as much as possible to help prevent the spread of any infectious illness.

Responsibility for an effective response to possible disease outbreaks will ultimately be left up to local governments, business managers, and individuals.  Personal initiative to ensure that appropriate steps are taken in preparation for such an outbreak is imperative. Although many international organizations and governments are providing resources and funding for monitoring and control programs, medication and supplies will likely not be available from these resources if an outbreak does occur.  Therefore, local business owners, individuals and organizations should be sure to develop their own contingency plans and response resources.

Currently, no vaccine has been approved to combat the H5N1 strain.  Vaccine development efforts are underway, but may take a while to discover and manufacture.  Additionally, no vaccine against a mutated virus can be researched until the mutation itself is discovered.  Several anti-viral medications, such as Tamiflu, have shown limited success against other Avian Influenza viruses.  However, it is unknown whether they will be effective against this strain or mutation that may develop.  Annual flu shots will help keep one immune to the normal flu and can theoretically help prevent against genetic reassortment.

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