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Avian Influenza – D

What is avian influenza?

Avian influenza or “bird flu” is a contagious disease of animals caused by viruses that normally infect only birds and less commonly, pigs. Avian influenza viruses are highly species-specific, but have on rare occasions, crossed the species barrier to infect humans.

Which countries have been affected by H5N1 virus outbreaks in poultry?

From mid December 2003 the following countries have reported poultry outbreaks

Spain
Japan
Italy
Thailand
Crotia
Cambodia
Austria
Lao People’s Democratic Republic
Hungary
Indonesia
Slovenia
China
France
Russia
Germany
Kazakhstan
Denmark
Romania
Bulgaria
Turkey
Nigeria
Greece
Egypt
Iraq
India
Azerbaijan

In August 2004, Kelantan had an outbreak of avian flu among poultry which was contained. The veterinary department is actively monitoring poultry farms and migratory birds for reemergence of the avian flu.

Which countries have reported human avian flu cases?

Since Dec 2004 to 27 February 2006, laboratory confirmed human cases have been reported in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Iraq, Thailand, Turkey, and Vietnam.

What are the implications for human health?

The widespread persistence of H5N1 in poultry populations poses two main risks for human health

  • The first is the risk of direct infection when the virus passes from poultry to humans. This may result in very severe disease.
  • A second risk, of even greater concern, is that the virus may change into a form that is highly infectious for humans and spreads easily from person to person. Such a change could mark the start of a global outbreak (a pandemic)

Does the virus spread easily from birds to human?

No . Though more than 100 human cases have occurred in the current outbreak, this is a small number compared with the huge number of birds affected.

How do people become infected?

  • Direct contact with infected poultry, or surfaces and objects contaminated by their faeces, is presently considered the main route of human infection. Infected birds shed large quantities of virus in their faeces
  • To date, most human cases have occurred in areas where many households keep small poultry flocks, which often roam freely, sometimes entering homes or sharing outdoor areas where children play.

Is it safe to eat poultry and poultry products?

Yes, though certain precautions should be followed in countries currently experiencing outbreaks. In areas free of the disease, poultry and poultry products can be prepared and consumed as usual following good hygienic practices and proper cooking, with no fear of acquiring infection with the H5N1 virus.

In areas experiencing outbreaks poultry and poultry products can also be safely consumed provided these items are properly cooked and properly handled during food preparation. The H5N1 virus is sensitive to heat. Normal temperatures used for cooking (70 degrees Celsius in all parts of the food) will kill the virus. Consumers need to be sure that all parts of the poultry are fully cooked (no “pink” parts) and that eggs too, are properly cooked (no “runny” yolks).

What are the signs and symptoms that you can present with?

  • Avian influenza may be suspected in people with history of contact with dead or dying birds in large numbers.
  • They may present with initial symptoms of high fever typically temperature of more than 380C with associated symptoms such as headache, muscle ache, cough, sore throat, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea and shortness of breath.

What preventive measures can we take?

  1. Safe food preparation
  2. Basic personal hygiene.
    • The most important step is to wash your hands often , especially after being in contact with someone who has a respiratory infection.
    • Get into the habit of washing your hands before meals, after using the toilet, and after you cough or sneeze or blow your nose. Wash your hands with soap and water, scrubbing your wrists, palms, fingers and nails for ten to fifteen seconds. Rinse and dry with a clean dry towel / disposable towel.
    • Avoid rubbing your eyes or touching your nose or mouth.
    • Remember not to share eating utensils or drinks.
    • Don’t visit people who have the flu unless it is absolutely necessary. If a member of your family has the flu, keep their personal items, such as towels, separate from the rest of the family.
    • Clean surfaces (such as bathroom sinks and taps, kitchen sinks and counters) after the ill person has handled them.
    • Avoid large crowds.
  3. Maintain good general health – healthy lifestyle
  4. Care for Your Self.
    • Stay healthy both physically and emotionally. Do not smoke
    • Drink enough water.
    • Have adequate sleep

What is the advice to travelers visiting countries experiencing outbreaks of H5N1 avian influenza?

WHO does not recommend any travel restriction to countries affected by avian flu, including countries which have reported human cases. Travelers to affected areas are advised to avoid contact with live animal markets and poultry farms and any free-ranging or caged poultry.

How do I get more information about avian influenza?

http://dph.gov.my/survelans/

http://www.infosihat.gov.my/

or you may also approach respective state health departments.

DESIGNATED HOSPITALS FOR MANAGING INFLUENZA CASES

NEGERI NAME OF HOSPITAL
PERLIS
  • Kangar
KEDAH
  • Alor Setar
  • Langkawi
PULAU PINANG
  • Pulau Pinang
PERAK
  • Ipoh
SELANGOR
  • Klang
N. SEMBILAN
  • Seremban
MELAKA
  • Melaka
JOHOR
  • Johor Bharu
PAHANG
  • Kuantan
TERENGGANU
  • Kuala Terengganu, eg. Hospital Sultanah Nur Zahirah
KELANTAN
  • Kota Bharu
  • University Science Malaysia, Kubang Kerian
W.P. KUALA LUMPUR
  • Kuala Lumpur
  • University Malaya Medical Centre
SARAWAK
  • Kuching
  • Sibu
  • Miri
SABAH
  • Kota Kinabalu
  • Sandakan
  • Tawau
W.P. LABUAN
  • Labuan

 

Last reviewed : 26 April 2012
Writer : Dr. Fuad Hashim
Reviewer : Dr. Norhaya Mohd Razali