Avian influenza is caused by a virus that exists naturally in wild birds. Wild birds often do not become sick, but they carry the virus and can pass it on to non-wild birds, such as chickens, turkeys, and ducks (fowl), which can become very sick and die.
Bird flu viruses do not generally infect people, but there have been several instances of human infection from bird flu viruses since the first reported case in 1997. There are many different types, and only a few of them can make people sick, including the H5N1 strain recently seen in Asia, Africa and Europe.
What You Should Know To Prepare For A Public Health Emergency
Preparing for a public health emergency requires the same actions to be taken when preparing for a disaster. There may be the need to remain at home for several days without access to services; developing and following a disaster plan can help ensure the essentials for basics needs are planned for in advance.
What You Can Do To Stay Healthy
There are several things people can do as precautionary measures, including:
- Practice good hygiene, especially frequent hand washing, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and then washing your hands again.
- The CDC advises that if you are planning to travel to countries in Asia with known outbreaks of H5N1 influenza, avoid poultry farms, contact with animals in live food markets, and any surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces from poultry or other animals.
- Listen to the news and stay informed if there is an outbreak.
- If you are sick, stay home from work or school; consult your health care provider if symptoms persist or are severe.
General precautions should always be taken when handling any raw meat, including fowl, to avoid possibly spreading germs. These measures include washing hands and surfaces before and after food preparation; avoiding using the same utensils on raw meat as on other foods, even cooked meat; and cooking raw meat thoroughly. The same steps should be taken when handling raw eggs too.
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