With the increasing number of deaths in China from the latest H7N9 avian (bird) flu, people around the world are becoming tense once again when it comes to travel or crowded areas. Although it hasn’t made its way to North America yet, people are being advised to follow certain flu prevention health tips to minimize the risk of contracting this virus, and to stop this deadly flu from spinning into an all-out global pandemic.
New Bird Flu Identified
Bird flu commonly refers to a type of flu that affects wild and domesticated birds and although it is easily transmitted among birds, it is uncommon for it to spread to humans. However, bird flu has been seen in humans. This usually happens after they have come into contact with infected poultry. In 2011, a highly contagious strain of the bird flu, H1N1, was seen and recently a new strain of the bird flu, H7N9 has been found in China. Unfortunately, there have been a steady number of human cases involving this new strain, some of which have resulted in death. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the new H7N9 strain of the flu has characteristics that make it well-adapted to affect the human population. Currently, there is no vaccination against the H7N9 strain, so flu prevention steps are essential to stopping the spread of the virus.
Flu Prevention Health Tips to Follow
While human-to-human spread of the H7N9 strain of bird flu is not completely known, it is best to take regular flu prevention steps just in case human-to-human transmission is possible. These flu prevention health tips include:
- Wash your hands frequently with warm water and soap or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
- Lead a healthy lifestyle – eat a healthy diet, exercises regularly, and manage your stress levels to help your immune system function optimally.
- If you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose to prevent the spread of germs to those around you. Avoid using your hands; try coughing or sneezing into your arm or shoulder instead.
- If you are sick with flu-like symptoms, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever has gone away.
If you have been exposed to the flu virus, you can get a prescription for anti-viral medication from your doctor which may help to prevent you from getting sick.
Flu Prevention Health Tips for Travellers
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that travellers refrain from visiting countries where bird flu has been seen in poultry, other birds, or humans. However, if you must travel to these areas, the CDC recommends that you take precautions to minimize your risk of getting sick. These health tips include:
- Avoid direct contact with all poultry and birds.
- Avoid touching surfaces that have bird droppings on them.
- Avoid visiting poultry farms or bird markets.
- If you are going to eat bird products or poultry, make sure that they are cooked thoroughly.
- Practice the general flu prevention health tips mentioned above.
- If you do start to feel sick, seek medical attention immediately.
- On your return home, monitor your symptoms for 7 days and seek medical attention if you start to notice any flu like symptoms and make sure you tell your doctor that you have travelled to a region where bird flu is present.
While human cases of bird flu are rare, they are being seen in China with the H7N9 strain of the virus. For the time being, it is best to avoid travel to this area unless it is absolutely necessary.