Basic Precautions That May Help You Avoid Bird Flu

Many people are concerned that Bird Flu will become a human flu sometime in the near future. To date, most cases have occurred in poorer rural areas where people have direct contact with poultry. No one knows how many would get sick in a bird flu pandemic, or even whether a new virus would truly spread as easily in humans as it does in birds.

It must be made clear that companies offering treatments or preventive products claiming to solve this problem are questionable. In fact, no such products have been shown to be effective. However, there are some very practical precautions you can take, and that is what this article is about.

- As with other infectious illnesses, one of the most important preventive practices is careful and frequent hand washing. Cleaning your hands often, using either soap and water or waterless alcohol-based hand rubs, removes potentially infectious materials from your skin and helps prevent disease transmission. Getting rest, eating well, exercising and keeping your immune system strong are also important.

- If you are traveling to countries with known outbreaks, check your health insurance plan or get additional insurance that covers medical evacuation in case you become sick and need to return home. (You should not travel on a regular commercial airline if you are sick).

- Avoid places such as poultry farms and bird markets where live poultry is raised or kept, and definitely avoid contact with sick or dead poultry.

- If preparing/storing food: Separate raw meat from cooked or ready-to-eat foods.

- Do not use the same chopping board or the same knife for preparing raw meat and cooked or ready-to-eat foods.

- Do not handle either raw or cooked foods without washing your hands in between.

- Do not place cooked meat back on the same plate or surface it was on before it was cooked.

- Thoroughly cook all poultry foods, including eggs. Egg yolks should not be runny or liquid. The cooking temperature for poultry meat should reach at least 70 degrees Celsius (158 degrees Fahrenheit), as influenza viruses are destroyed by this heat.

- Wash egg shells in soapy water before handling and cooking, and wash your hands afterwards.

- Do not use raw or soft-boiled eggs in foods that will not be cooked.

- After handling raw poultry or eggs, wash your hands and all surfaces and utensils thoroughly with soap and water.

- Do not consume uncooked poultry or poultry products, including food with uncooked poultry blood.

- If you become sick with symptoms such as a fever, with difficulty breathing, or coughing, or any illness that requires prompt medical attention, contact your doctor immediately and inform your family and friends about the situation, (by phone/e-mail, trying to avoid personal contact). 

Sources: World Health Organisation (WHO), World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)

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