Avian Influenza, also known as bird flu, is a highly contagious infection among birds. It is a zoonosis – an animal infection that can spread to humans – with viral subtypes belonging to the influenza A species. The subtypes H5N1 and H7N9, in particular, can cause serious illness in humans.
Avian influenza can occur anywhere. Travellers are at risk if they come in direct contact with the fluids and feces of infected birds or poultry like chickens, ducks, turkeys, or pigeons. Other routes of exposure include touching contaminated objects or surfaces, slaughtering, defeathering, butchering, and preparing infected poultry for cooking. There is evidence that some subtypes, like H5N1, can be transmitted from person to person, although this is rare.
Usually symptoms appear 2 to 17 days after exposure to the virus. They include fever, runny nose, sore throat, sore eyes, cough, muscle aches. More severe symptoms include difficulty breathing, pneumonia, upper and lower respiratory tract infection, chest pain, diarrhea, gum and nose bleeding, vomiting, and eye infections. Seek medical attention immediately if you suspect exposure to Avian Influenza. Treatment includes taking antiviral medications.
Only eat well cooked eggs, poultry, and game fowl meat.
Avoid visiting animal markets, poultry farms, and other places where you may come into contact with live or dead birds.
Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently with soap and water, or if not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before preparing food or after contact with birds.
Cover your mouth with a tissue or with your sleeve when coughing or sneezing.
There is currently no preventive medication or vaccine against Avian Influenza.