What is avian influenza (bird flu) H5N1?
H5N1 is an avian influenza virus subtype Avian influenza is an infection caused by avian (bird) influenza (flu) 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, avian influenza is very contagious among birds and can make some domesticated birds, including chickens, ducks, and turkeys, very sick and kill them. (CDC, 2006)
How do people become infected with avian influenza viruses?
Most cases of avian influenza infection in humans have resulted from direct or close contact with infected poultry (e.g., domesticated chicken, ducks, and turkeys) or surfaces contaminated with secretions and excretions from infected birds. The spread of avian influenza viruses from an ill person to another person has been reported very rarely, and transmission has not been observed to continue beyond one person. During an outbreak of avian influenza among poultry, there is a possible risk to people who have direct or close contact with infected birds or with surfaces that have been contaminated with secretions and excretions from infected birds. (CDC, 2006)
What are the symptoms of avian influenza in humans?
Symptoms of avian influenza in humans have ranged from typical human influenza-like symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat, and muscle aches) to eye infections, pneumonia, severe respiratory diseases (such as acute respiratory distress syndrome), and other severe and life-threatening complications. The symptoms of avian influenza may depend on which specific virus subtype and strain caused the infection. (CDC, 2006)
Is there a risk for becoming infected with avian influenza by eating poultry?
There is no evidence that properly cooked poultry or eggs can be a source of infection for avian influenza viruses. For more information about avian influenza and food safety issues, visit the World Health Organization website . (CDC, 2006)
Bird flu in Asia:
As of February 19, 2006, bird flu has killed at least 91 people -- mostly in Asia - since 2003, according to World Health Organization. Sick birds have directly infected most victims, but scientists fear the H5N1 virus could change to a form easily passed between humans and spark a pandemic.
Prevention of Avian Influenza in Schools
The school authorities, staff members and students should pay heed to the following :
- Schools must not keep poultry in the school premises and should refrain from keeping live birds where possible;
- Establish barriers to prevent children from touching live birds;
- Avoid organizing activities that may expose children to live birds;
- Do not touch live birds, poultry and their excreta (Wash hands with soap and water immediately after contact with live birds or surfaces contaminated by bird droppings).
Schools should call the Government hotline at 1823 for advice on handling sick, wounded or dead birds found on school premises. The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department will collect the birds for laboratory examination, where necessary.
Cover nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing and wash hands with soap and water afterwards;
- Keep hands clean and wash hands properly, use liquid soap for hand washing and disposal towel for drying hands, do not share towels;
- Cleanse used toys and furniture properly;
- Maintain good ventilation;
- Keep sufficient stock of face masks in the school for staff/students who may need one; and
- If any students/staff develop respiratory symptoms, they should consult their doctor promptly, wear a surgical mask, and take rest at home and refrain from going to school as advised by their doctor.
Prevention of Avian Influenza in Public Places
The public should adopt the following measures to reduce the risk of being infected:
- Step up hygienic practices like washing hands and keeping the environment clean and maintain good ventilation.
- Cover nose and mouth while sneezing or coughing. Dispose sputum or secretions wrapped in tissue paper into rubbish bins with lids and wash hands as soon as possible.
- Avoid crowded or poorly ventilated places.
- Wear a mask if they develop flu-like symptoms, when caring for the sick, and when visiting hospitals and clinics.
- Watch out for the latest situation of the influenza pandemic and further announcements from the government.
- Pay attention to and comply with guidelines issued by the government with respect to prevention of avian flu, traveling and port health control.
- ban on the importation of birds (including pet birds) and bird products from H5N1-affected countries in Asia and Europe.
- ban the importation of birds from areas where H5N1 has been documented
- "Frequent and proper hand washing is of paramount importance," the spokesman said.
(Info, HK, and CDC, 2006)
As a general rule, the public should observe wildlife, including wild birds (seasonal birds) from a distance. This protects you from possible exposure to pathogens and minimizes disturbance to the animal. Avoid touching wildlife. If there is contact with wildlife do not rub eyes, eat, drink, or smoke before washing hands with soap and water. Do not pick up diseased or dead wildlife. Contact with the appropiate natural resource agency if a sick or dead animal is found. (CDC, 2006).
SHAKEEEL AHMED IBNE MAHMOOD
Author Shakeel Ahmed Ibne Muhmud MPA, MBA, MCA, MIAM, FIBA is Senior Administrative Officer Health Systems and Infections Diseases Division, ICDDR,B, International Centre for Health and Population Research.
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