Travel Health Service Avian Influenza
Travel related diseases

Avian Influenza

What is avian influenza?

Avian Influenza is caused by type A influenza virus. Some subtypes, such as H5N1 and H9N2, mainly infect poultry occasionally affect humans.

Initial symptoms of Avian Influenza in humans are similar to those of other influenza viruses, including fever, generalised muscle pain, cough and sore throat. However, it is more likely to result in high fever, chest infection, respiratory failure, multi-organ failure and death. The elderly, children and people with chronic illness have a higher risk of developing complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia.

How does it spread?

Human usually contracts Avian Influenza from infected live birds through contact. However, human can also contract the disease from another infected human, but the transmission from human to human is so far inefficient.

How can it be prevented?

Travellers to areas affected by Avian Influenza run the risk of contracting the diseases. If they have to go to the affected areas, they should adopt the following precautions:-

  • Avoid going to bird parks, poultry markets and farms. Do not feed pigeons or other birds.

  • Avoid touching live birds or poultry or their droppings as they may carry the avian influenza virus.

  • If there is contact with live birds or poultry, wash your hands immediately and thoroughly with liquid soap and water.

  • If you have influenza symptoms, consult a doctor and wear a mask to prevent spreading the disease.

  • Cook poultry and eggs thoroughly before eating.

  • The best protection against Influenza is having good body resistance. This can be achieved through a balanced diet, regular exercise, adequate rest, reducing stress, and not smoking.

  • Avoid crowded places with poor ventilation.

  • On return from an affected area, if fever and respiratory symptoms develop, put on the face mask, consult your doctor and inform your recent travel history.

How is it treated?

Avian Influenza is generally more severe than ordinary influenza, and patients may require hospital care. Some anti-viral drugs may be effective in treating the condition. However, these drugs should be used carefully under doctor's supervision, as they may cause adverse side effects.