|News on Health|
|What is Bird Flu H7N9 ?||Your Health is our Priority|
|Should Travelers Worry ?||.||
According to travelreadymd.com
The bird flu is back in the news, but there is a new twist: the chickens which are the
likely source of the illness are not sick.
Over 125 people have been sickened and 26 have died throughout eastern China. All
this has travelers wondering what is bird flu and how can travelers avoid it?
What is bird flu H7N9?
Bird flu is a viral repiratory infection of birds which sometimes infect people. We are
not exactly sure how this new H7N9 strain infects people, but experts think that
close contact with poultry is how most people become sick.
In mid-March 2013, in the same section of Shanghai, two men were hospitalized with
severe pneumonia and quickly died. The astute doctors thought this was odd so
they collected samples that were quickly sent off to a special laboratory that monitors
for emergence of new diseases.
New technology allowed the laboratory to quickly identity the exact genetic sequence
of this new strain of bird flu, including the mutation that caused the virus to become
aggressive. They were surprised to learn that H7N9 was the problem since prior to
this event it had never caused infection in humans. Scientists were also able to
determine that this strain of bird flu can be treated with oseltamivir (Tamiflu).
Where did the H7N9 bird flu come from?
Experts were suspicious that the strain was transmitted from domestic birds, but
they didn’t know which types of birds or what advice to give to people.
After careful sleuthing, scientists have determined that many of the people infected
with H7N9 strain of bird flu had been to live animal markets within 10 days of
becoming ill. However, since the animals on the farms and in the markets appeared
well it wasn’t apparent how people actually caught the infection. Scientist literally
swabbed the throats of chickens, ducks, quail, and pigeons in the markets. That is
how they discovered that local chickens and pigeons were the suspected source of
the new H7N9 bird flu.
This is good news because it can be contained by closing the live poultry markets,
vaccinating poultry, and culling the flocks. In addition infected carrier pigeons which
may have contributed to the spread of bird flu have been grounded–all bird races
have been canceled in Beijing indefinitely and pigeon owners have been instructed to
keep their birds in cages.
It is not surprising that bird flu is spread from chickens to humans; what is new is this
particular strain seems to be more aggressive in it’s ability to affect humans. An
unusually high number of people infect have died (about 20%). In fact there is
suspicion that limited human-to-human transmission has occurred in close family
members of people sickened with H7N9.
Fortunately, No sustained human-to-human transmission has occurred. In other
words, an outbreak cased by spread between people has not happened. This is
good news for travelers.
What should travelers do about bird flu?
How can travelers to China best protect themselves from bird flu?
Avoid direct contact with animals and their droppings.
Do not touch animals (live or dead).
Do not visit live animal markets in China.
Wash your hands often.
Keep your hands away from your face, and wash them frequently.
Carry and use hand sanitizer since it can be difficult to find places to wash up when
Cough into a tissue or your elbow, this avoids contaminating your hands with germs.
Eat only well-cooked food.
Only eat meats which are no longer pink.
Eggs should be fully cooked (not runny).
Avoid eating chicken since it can be difficult to be sure it was thoroughly cooked by
simply looking at your food. In reality, this may be difficult due to language barriers
and the propensity to use chicken parts in many dishes to provide flavor.
See your doctor if you are ill.
If you become ill with a cough, fever, etc within 10 days of visiting China see you
Cover your nose and mouth with a mask until seen by your doctor to prevent any
possible spread of disease.
Rapid flu tests may not detect Influenza A(H7N9). If you become ill with a respiratory
illness after return from China you should discuss with your doctor whether to begin
antiviral medications while awaiting test results from a specialty lab.
Travelers leaving China should be aware they may have difficulty visiting other
countries if they are sick. You may be subject to surveillance for illness and denied
entry if thought to be ill with fever and/or respiratory symptoms. Your local travel
medicine doctor can assist you in sorting out the health regulations.
Many people are worried by the frequent media updates regarding bird flu H7N9. You
should realize that the increased media coverage of this outbreak is due to increased
information from the Chinese government, and not an increase imminent danger to
you, the traveler. This is due, in part, to the increase in transparency by the Chinese
government who is providing frequent, informative press releases. It is refreshing a
departure from the secrecy in the handling of the 2003 SARS outbreak for which the
Chinese government was widely criticized.
Bottom line: you don’t need to be alarmed by all the media attention to bird flu, but
be grateful that the international authorities are working together and sharing what
information is known about this outbreak.
The risk to travelers, at this point in time is small, as long as you avoid contact with
poultry, you should be able to proceed wth your travel plans.