If you are planning to travel in the near future, you should be aware of the outbreak of human infection with avian influenza A (H5N1) virus. While the virus usually only affects wild birds, domestic poultry have become infected and diseased in some locations. These diseased birds have included chickens. Under normal circumstances human infection with H5N1 is rare; however since 2003, there have been cases noted in several countries.
Usually, human cases of H5N1 is believed to result from direct contact with poultry that is infected in affected countries. Be aware that contact with dead poultry or sick poultry should be avoided in order to reduce exposure. In some cases, sick birds may have no symptoms at all. Also avoid contact with surfaces that may have become contaminated with poultry feces or secretions. It should be noted that in 2005 in Vietnam two persons became ill with H5N1 virus after consuming uncooked duck blood. Do not consume uncooked poultry or poultry products. Poultry blood should be avoided as well.
At this time, the ability of the virus to spread beyond one person to the next is rare; however such viruses do tend to change rapidly and without warning. In the event that the H5N1 virus obtains the ability to be spread from one human to another huma
n, the threat of a pandemic could be severe. At this time there have been no cases of transmission beyond one person. There has been one noted case in which person to person contact is believed to have occurred. In this case, the individuals involved were an ill child and the child’s mother. The case occurred in Thailand in 2004.
Be aware of the fact that the H5N1 infection in humans can be quite serious and can cause death. At this time there is no vaccine to protect humans against the virus. A candidate vaccine is undergoing clinical trials in the U.S.
Countries affected by H5N1 include: Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iraq.
At this time the CDC has not recommended that the general public avoid travel to these countries; however if you choose to travel to these regions, it is wise to exercise caution and reduce risk of infection by ensuring that you have all routine vaccinations, bring basic first aid and medical supplies with you, pack plenty of antibacterial hand gel, avoid contact with poultry (even those that do not appear to be sick), wash your hands frequently, eat only well cooked foods and seek medical attention immediately should you develop a fever along with cough, sore throat or problems breathing.