ABC Guide to Travel Health - Vaccines, Vaccinations

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Avian influenza

Avian influenza (H5N1), or "bird flu", is caused by influenza viruses that mainly infect birds and, less commonly, pigs. Although human infection with bird flu is rare, there have been ongoing cases and several small outbreaks reported in recent years, usually in Asia. Infected individuals may develop a range of symptoms from severe flu-like symptoms (fever, sore throat and cough) to pneumonia and other severe and life-threatening complications. 5

Close contact with live infected poultry is the primary source of human infection. Person-to person transmission is rare.

Geographical distribution5
Worldwide. The most recent outbreaks have occurred in Asia .

Risk for travellers6
Very low. Avian influenza viruses usually do not infect humans.

Precautions and prevention6
Travellers to areas where avian influenza virus is known to circulate are advised to follow these precautions:

  • Simple infection control techniques, such as washing hands, using either soap and water or waterless, alcohol-based hand rubs, may help prevent the spread of the disease.
  • Avoid settings where avian influenza can be transmitted, such as bird markets and poultry yards.
  • Cook all food from poultry thoroughly, including eggs. Adequate heating destroys influenza viruses.

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