The Avian Flu is all over the news these days and I am amazed how so many people are not taking it seriously. Sure we all get flus every once in a while but this strain of the flu is much worse than usual flus.
Bird flu is an infection caused by avian influenza viruses. These flu viruses occur naturally among birds. Wild birds worldwide carry the viruses in their intestines, but usually do not get sick from them. However, bird flu is very contagious among birds and can make some domesticated birds, including chickens, ducks, and turkeys, very sick and kill them. The latest strain of the Avain Flu is designated H5N1 virus has been a flu that has mutated over the last few years and is now to the point of being passed over to humans and actually killing people. The US CDC has a page with some useful information about the flu and where it has come from.
The last time that the world had a global epidemic of a flu otherwise known as a pandemic was in 1918. The Flu Pandemic of 1918 killed and estimated 50 million people worldwide. The world has had pandemics before and since but that 1918 pandemic was the biggest in recent history.
Now we have factors that make the spread of disease much easier and dangerous than back in the early 20th century. We have a much better transportation system, with cars and planes readily available all over the world. We also have a much higher concentration of people living in cities compared to rural populations of the 1900s And lastly our great pharmaceutical advances of the last 100 years have left people overmedicated and often much less resistant to disease because they have become resistant to the more common antibiotics such as penicillin that was so important in stopping disease 50 years ago or so. One factor that is up in the air to me is the lifestyles of people today compared to 100 years ago. As we all know people are a lot more sedentary now compared to the agrarian hard living lifestyle of 100 years or even 50 years aso but our health system infrastructure is much better now than then and peoples longevity proves that out.
The latest reports about the Avian Flu is that at least 62 people have been killed in the far east and the scary part of this stat is that almost half of the people that are becoming infected with the Avian Flu are dying from it. The people that have been infected so far are mostly people that work with livestock so their proximity to the flu is an important reason that they may have been infected.
Now that you know what the flu is and how bad it could be here are some tips to avoid the flu.
With the holidays coming Osha has the following info for travelers
GUIDANCE FOR TRAVELERS
The CDC has issued precautions for travel to countries that are reporting outbreaks of avian influenza A (H5N1) in humans and animals. Currently, CDC does not recommend that the general public avoid travel to any of the countries affected by avian influenza A (H5N1). CDC has issued the following recommendations for travel to countries reporting human or animal cases of avian influenza A (H5N1):
Before you leave:
Assemble a travel health kit containing basic first aid and medical supplies. Be sure to include a thermometer and alcohol-based hand rub for hand hygiene.
Educate yourself and others who may be traveling with you about influenza. Information about influenza is provided on CDC’s influenza website: (http://www.cdc.gov/flu/).
Be sure you are up to date with all your shots, and see your health-care provider at least 46 weeks before travel to get any additional shots or information you may need. CDC’s health recommendations for international travel are provided on CDC’s Travelers’ Health website: http://www.cdc.gov/travel/.
You may wish to check your health insurance plan or get additional insurance that covers medical evacuation in the event of illness. Information about medical evacuation services is provided on the U.S. Department of State website: http://www.travel.state.gov/medical.html.
Identify in-country health-care resources in advance of your trip.
While you are in an area where avian influenza cases have been reported:
At this time, CDC recommends that travelers to countries experiencing outbreaks of this disease in poultry should avoid areas with live poultry, such as live animal markets and poultry farms. Large amounts of the virus are known to be excreted in the droppings from infected birds.
As with other infectious illnesses, one of the most important and appropriate preventive practices is careful and frequent hand hygiene. Cleaning your hands often using either soap and water or waterless alcohol-based hand sanitizers removes potentially infectious materials from your skin and helps prevent disease transmission.
Influenza viruses are destroyed by heat; therefore, as a precaution, all foods from poultry, including eggs, should be thoroughly cooked.
If you develop respiratory symptoms or any illness that requires prompt medical attention, a U.S. consular officer can assist in locating appropriate medical services and informing family or friends. See this website for more information about what to do if you become ill while abroad http://www.cdc.gov/travel/other/illness-abroad.htm. It is advisable that you defer further travel until you are free of symptoms.
After your return:
Monitor your health for 10 days.
If you become ill with fever or respiratory symptoms during this 10-day period, consult a health-care provider. Before your visit to a health-care setting, tell the provider about your symptoms and recent travel so that he or she can be aware you have traveled to an area reporting avian influenza.
Information for health care providers wishing to test for or report cases of influenza A (H5N1) and SARS can be found at this website http://www.cdc.gov/flu/han020302.htm
For anyone else to avoid the Avian flu it is important to stay out of contact from anyone that could carry the flu and there is some great information at the UK Health Agency. It is important to know that the flu shot, although very important for everyone, will not protect you from this strain of the flu so do not think that you are protected from Avian flu after your flu shot. Other things that are good to do are to make sure that you stay home when sick and always wash your hands to make sure that you do not start carrying any viruses or even let them infect you.