Growing global fears of the risk of a possible pandemic caused by Avian Flu or the H5N1 Virus has many travelers increasingly concerned now that the disease is confirmed in bird populations as geographically widespread as Indonesia, East Asia, Europe and the United Kingdom.
Bird Flu in Indonesia
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a total of 7 cases of humans infected with H5N1 Virus have been confirmed in Indonesia, with 4 of those affected perishing. All clinical tests conducted indicate that no human-to-human transference of the disease has occurred in Indonesia, with each victim's illness traced back to close contact with infected poultry.
Human to Human Infection Still Very Rare
Experts are concerned that the much dreaded pandemic with the potential of killing large human populations could get its start as a mutation of the virus among human victims into a form easily transmittable from human to human. To date, only one case has been pinpointed showing probable person-to-person transmission associated with close contact between an ill child and her mother. That case is reported to have occurred in Thailand in September 2004.
CDC Advice to Travelers
The U.S.A.-based Center for Disease Control (CDC) has published a list of practical tips for international travelers visiting areas affected by H5N1 Avian Influenza on their website at [CDC Travel Advice] .
Among the advice offered to travelers include:
• Vist their web site (link above) and educate yourself on the latest recommendations regarding H5N1 Avian Influenza and travel.
• Keep up to date with all routine vaccination. Visit your doctor or health-care-provider 4-6 weeks before travel, to get any additional vaccinations or information you may need.
• Assemble a travel health kit containing basic first aid and medical supplies. Be sure to include a thermometer and alcohol-based hand gel for hand hygiene. The CDC web site carries recommendations on how to compose a travel health kit.
• Identify in-country health-care resources in advance of your trip.
• Check your health insurance plan or get additional insurance that covers medical evacuation in case you become sick.
During travel to an area affected by H5N1 Avian Influenza the CDC recommends:
• Avoid all direct contact with poultry, including touching well-appearing, sick, or dead chickens and ducks. Avoid places such as poultry farms and bird markets where live poultry are raised or kept, and avoid handling surfaces contaminated with poultry feces or secretions.
• As with other infectious illnesses, one of the most important preventive practices is careful and frequent hand washing. Cleaning your hands often with soap and water removes potentially infectious material from your skin and helps prevent disease transmission. Waterless alcohol-based hand gels may be used when soap is not available and hands are not visibly soiled.
• Influenza viruses are destroyed by heat; therefore, as a precaution, all foods from poultry, including eggs and poultry blood, should be thoroughly cooked.
• If you become sick with symptoms such as a fever accompanied by a cough, sore throat, or difficulty breathing seek qualified medical help immediately.
Some Useful Web Sites
Here are some web sites related to H5N1 Avian Influenza you may find useful:
[CDC Travel Advice from CDC]
[World Health Organization Avian Flu Portal]
[CDC Avian Flu Web Site]
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