|Bird Flu - Information for Travelers
If an Avian Bird Flu pandemic strikes theres no doubt it will have a devastating effect on the travel industry. This document touches briefly on Bird Flu and provides advice for Travelers who are going to be ultimately more susceptible if a pandemic strikes.
What is Bird Flu?
Bird Flu is an influenza strain of about twenty that infects birds. While there is a mass of media hysteria regarding recent outbreaks, Bird Flu has been in known existence for over 40 years. During this time, the disease has become far more infectious and affects almost every bird species in many countries world wide. One particular strain of this disease that is particularly worrying is the deadly "H5N1" strain - which has caused over sixty human deaths to date. While these deaths have been caused from direct contact with infected birds, scientists are worried that the virus could mutate and become highly contagious between humans.
Should I defer travel to countries that have confirmed cases of Bird Flu?
No. At this stage Bird Flu is a relatively isolated disease. Furthermore you can only become infected through the secretions of infected birds. You have got a far greater chance of getting mugged or falling ill with the common cold - so put everything into perspective. Upon saying this, stay wary. Be sure you know about any possible outbreaks that could occur. If hear of a suspected outbreak, you then however may wish to reconsider.
Governments also provide up to the minute travel warnings for countries that have disease outbreaks. See: http://www.cdc.gov.
The potential dangers of flying.
If an outbreak were to occur, be very wary about flying. Aircraft provide perfect environments for spreading disease. Passengers are often ballooned into Aircraft like cattle. Because they are within close quarters for long periods and with the air being re-circulated it drastically increases the changes of infection. Furthermore, what happens if an infected passenger from a previous flight was sitting in the seat you are about the sit in?. The news is not all bad. Many newer commercial aircraft have filters that remove all germs from the air. Be sure to check with your Airline.
When the SARS virus was first discovered in China, it had already reached five other countries within just 24 hours. Todays high speed air travel does make for a rather scary scenario. The 1918 pandemic spread world wide - even though travel times were significant between countries. With travel from one side of the globe to another in 24 hours - imagine how quickly a bird flu virus could spread.
How can I best prepare before traveling?
- Put together a first aid kit. If possible, include a sanitizer and thermometer. A dose of flu tablets such as Tamiflu and a respirator would be valuable additions.
- Vaccinate. Be sure that you have had all the recommended jabs before traveling. It is believed that the common Flu jab may provide some degree of resistance, but is not really known until scientists can identify the mutated form of the virus.
- Watch and study the news. Make sure you are up-to-date before you leave. Be sure to take a small radio along with you so that you can keep up-to-date while traveling.
- Take out travel health insurance.
What happens if I get caught up in an outbreak?
- If its not possible to leave the area, you should avoid close contact with any other people that are showing potential symptoms. You should cover your mouth and nose with an approved respirator. Don't cover your mouth and nose with your hands - infact avoid such contact. Ensure you wash your hands (and that others do also) regularly.
What happens if I get infected?
If you do start to show symptoms (fever, coughing, sore throat) be sure to contact your consular officer immediately. They will then be able to advise you on where to seek medial attention. There are anti-viral tablets (such as Tamiflu) which may offer some relief. Visit this URL for more info: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/antiviral/index.htm.
Also, be sure to isolate yourself from other people. You don't want them to get infected.
If you are traveling to countries that have confirmed cases of Bird Flu be sure to monitor your health for up to ten days after your return. If symptoms do arise, be sure to see your health professional immediately.
Please see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website for official Information:
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Article is Copyright 2005 - TravelJ - http://www.travelj.com - Travelers Resource and Information Network.
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