Recently the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations released an article titled Bird Flu rears its head again and we’re all reminded that flu season is just around the corner.
While 2008 marked the beginning of geographic expansion of the H5N1 virus in both farm-raised poultry and wild birds, the current advance appears to be associated with migratory bird movements which result in the spread of the virus to domesticated birds. The following countries are noted as having H5N1 firmly entrenched: Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia and Vietnam.
The World Health Organization’s Avian Influenza Fact Sheet indicates two causes for concern of which travelers need to be aware:
- Of all flu viruses that circulate in birds, the H5N1 presents the greatest danger to humans having caused the greatest number of deaths.
- If given enough opportunity, the H5N1 will develop the defenses necessary to survive and it has the potential to start another influenza pandemic.
So far, this particular virus is missing the ability to spread efficiently and sustainably which is why a pandemic has not yet occurred.
When traveling in areas where bird flu is common, travelers can protect themselves by avoiding contact with domestic and wild birds because extensive studies of human cases indicate that direct contact with infected poultry was the cause of the infection.
That means staying away from markets where live poultry are kept or butchered. That means staying away from rural and suburban areas with poultry.
Thorough hand washing and flu vaccines are also recommended courses of action.