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How to Avoid Bird Flu (Avian Influenza) When Traveling in Africa


Bird Flu in Africa:

In February 2006 the deadly Bird Flu strain H5N1 was found on a poultry farm in Nigeria. Since then the virus has also been found in Niger and in Egypt. The first human victim of the deadly strain was reported in Egypt in March 2006.

Culling birds with the flu strain is going to have a huge impact on people's livelihoods.

What Is Bird Flu:

Usually, avian influenza virus refers to influenza A viruses found chiefly in birds, but infections with these viruses can occur in humans. The risk from avian influenza is generally low to most people, because the viruses do not usually infect humans. However, confirmed cases of human infection from several subtypes of avian influenza infection have been reported since 1997.

How Can I Get Bird Flu (Avian Influenza):

Most cases of avian influenza infection in humans have resulted from contact with infected poultry (e.g., domesticated chicken, ducks, and turkeys) or surfaces contaminated with secretion/excretions from infected birds. The spread of avian influenza viruses from one ill person to another has been reported very rarely, and transmission has not been observed to continue beyond one person.

How Can I Avoid Bird Flu (Avian Influenza):

Avoid any contact with chickens, ducks and turkeys in areas of Africa where bird flu has been detected. As of February 2006, Nigeria is the only country where avian influenza has been detected among domesticated fowl, no human cases have been brought to light yet. See the CDC's outbreaks page for up to date information. Eating birds infected by the flu is not harmful.

Symptoms of Bird Flu (Avian Influenza):

Symptoms of avian influenza in humans have ranged from typical human influenza-like symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, sore throat, and muscle aches) to eye infections, pneumonia, severe respiratory diseases (such as acute respiratory distress), and other severe and life-threatening complications. The H5N1 strain that is making news headlines has caused death in most cases.

Treatment for Bird Flu (Avian Influenza):

The H5N1 virus that has caused human illness and death is resistant to amantadine and rimantadine, two antiviral medications commonly used for influenza. Two other antiviral medications, oseltamavir and zanamavir, would probably work to treat influenza caused by H5N1 virus, but additional studies still need to be done to demonstrate their effectiveness.

Further Reading:

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