Bird Flu Alarm

Understanding Avian Influenza

Update on Avian Influenza (VI)

21 Oct 2005

In light of countries in Asia (Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and China) and Europe (Turkey, Romania, Greece, Russia) reporting influenza A/H5N1 outbreaks among poultry, MOH wishes to remind travelers to areas affected by avian influenza to avoid contact with poultry such as chickens, geese, ducks, pigeons, and wild birds. Places such as commercial or backyard poultry farms and markets selling birds should be avoided. In addition, travelers should avoid handling or eating raw or undercooked poultry or foods containing uncooked poultry (including eggs). There is no evidence that properly cooked poultry or poultry products can be a source of infection. Travelers are also advised to seek medical attention early if they develop flu-like symptoms i.e. fever, body aches, sore throat, cough and runny nose.

In response to queries whether travelers to areas experiencing outbreaks of avian flu should take Tamiflu as a form of protection, MOH advises that this is not necessary. Human infections are rare and this remains primarily a disease affecting birds. There is no human-to-human transmission. Avoidance of poultry as described above is all that is needed. Indiscrimate use of tamiflu may also lead to increased resistance of avian influenza viruses to Tamiflu.

In the meantime, MOH recommends persons 6 months and above who intend to travel to temperate countries in the Northern Hemisphere during the winter period or who are in the high risk groups as listed below to vaccinate themselves against human influenza:

Persons aged 65 years and older;

Adults and children who have chronic disorders of the pulmonary or cardiovascular systems, including asthma;

Adults and children who have required regular medical follow-up or hospitalization during the preceding year because of chronic metabolic diseases (including diabetes mellitus), renal dysfunction, haemoglobinopathies or immunosuppression (including immunosuppression caused by medications or by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus);

Children and teenagers aged 6 months to 18 years who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy; and

Women in the second or third trimester of pregnancy. The vaccine against human influenza is available at polyclinics, general practitioners clinic and traveler's clinics.

Understanding Avian Influenza