Bird Flu Alarm

2006-03-02-Bird flu health advice issued to travellers

Understanding Avian Influenza

2006-03-02-Bird flu health advice issued to travellers

Holidaymakers travelling to countries with bird flu outbreaks were advised today to avoid contact with birds and to wash their hands frequently.

The advice is listed in a new Department of Health information leaflet, available from GP surgeries, health centres and air and sea ports in England, which warns of the possible risks from the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu.

The deadly H5N1 strain of the virus, which has jumped the species barrier from birds to humans in Asia, has arrived in European countries including France, Germany and Greece. The DoH said there was no H5N1 currently in the UK, but cases were now occurring in poultry and wild birds elsewhere in the world.

The information leaflet includes guidance on how to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus in those countries affected by an outbreak of H5N1. It advises:

Do not visit bird or poultry farms and markets;
Avoid close contact with live or dead poultry;
Do not eat raw or poorly-cooked poultry or poultry products, including blood;
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
There is also guidance on the symptoms of infection and what people should do if they think they have become infected.

"The information we are distributing today is to make sure that people travelling to countries affected by H5N1 have up-to-date health advice," said Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer.

"H5N1 avian influenza is predominantly a disease of birds. The virus does not pass easily from birds to people and has not yet been shown to pass from person to person. Where people have been infected, it was as a result of close contact with infected poultry or birds."

He added however: "The virus has caused severe disease and a high proportion of people have died. H5N1 infections have not been reported in this country, but it is important that travellers from the UK have clear factual information to assist them."

The leaflet points out that there are currently no restrictions on travel to affected areas, but visitors should be aware of the risk and follow the advice given.

If people have been in contact with live or dead poultry in an affected country, it says, they should be aware of the symptoms of bird flu in humans, which are similar to ordinary flu symptoms and can appear suddenly. These symptoms may include a fever, with a temperature above 38C, a cough, shortness of breath, headache, sore throat, sore eyes and muscle aches.

The severe H5N1 form of bird flu has so far been diagnosed in birds in Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey and across South East Asia.

Understanding Avian Influenza