Avian influenza, also known as bird flu, is a type A influenza virus. The virus is carried inside the bird's intestines and distributed into the environment via its feces. Sometimes it develops into a strain which causes widespread deaths in both wild and domesticated birds.
(Note: this is general advice regarding avian influenza, for detail on specific strains such as the H7N9 variant presently occurring in China, check the FAQ page of the World Health Organization).
On occasions, avian influenza mutates into a form which can be transmitted from bird to human, and generally affects people who have close contact with birds and poultry.
For example, it's common in children in rural communities – because they often play among and around poultry – and those who work in live poultry markets which are consequently exposed to bird feces.
The virus can also survive in raw poultry meat but is destroyed during cooking involving high heat.
For more information, check your government's travel advisory or the embassy of the country you plan to travel to, to determine if there is an outbreak of bird flu.
There is no vaccination available for avian influenza.
The incubation period differs from strain to strain but the average tends to be from three to 10 days.
The symptoms of bird flu in humans are similar to those of regular influenza and include:
Bird flu in humans can cause a range of serious and potentially fatal complications, including:
As this disease shares common symptoms with many others, it's strongly advised if you become sick with fever, coughing, or shortness of breath you should seek medical treatment.
Contact the emergency assistance line for your travel insurer for advice on your condition and to locate a doctor or hospital.
It's recommended that you delay your travel home until you have recovered, or medical professionals say it's ok to travel. Let your travel insurance company know this information.
If you get sick with fever, coughing, or shortness of breath after you return home, visit your doctor and tell them where you have been traveling.
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