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Human cases of bird flu continue to occur in China, from several areas and from different strains of virus. Bird flu can cause a severe respiratory illness which may be fatal. Almost all human cases have had direct contact with poultry. Overall, the risk of infection for travellers is low. International SOS is monitoring the situation closely.|
Avoid contact with birds and their environments, and pay strict attention to hygiene.
Avoid farms and "wet markets", where live animals may be present.Do not handle any birds, even if they appear well. Prevent children from doing so.Avoid touching any surfaces that may be contaminated by bird droppings. Do not swim in any body of water that is used by birds.Ensure all poultry and eggs are thoroughly cooked. Do not eat raw products.Always maintain high levels of personal hygiene. Frequent hand washing is very important. Wash hands before and after food preparation and before eating.Consider having an influenza vaccination. Although it will not protect you against bird flu, it reduces your risk of a "co-infection" with human influenza.Monitor the advice of local health authorities - they may screen travellers returning from China.Members in China who develop flu-like symptoms should call the assistance centre for advice before seeking care at a medical facility.
More than ten people have been confirmed infected with bird flu since October. In late December, in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, a 58-year-old man is critically ill with influenza A(H5N6). This is only the second human case due to this strain of flu to be documented. Authorities are investigating, and so far no contacts have shown symptoms.
Other cases due to the A(H7N9) strain have occurred in the cities of Beijing and Shanghai, and the provinces of Guangdong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Most have been severe infections and at least five have died. A few people have suffered a milder infection, including a child in Beijing. Some have a history of exposure to poultry but for others the likely source of infection remains unknown.
A number of other avian flu strains are present in China, including H5N1.
What is bird flu?
Avian flu, also known as "bird flu", refers to a family of flu viruses that mainly affect birds. Several strains of bird flu are known to cause severe and fatal illness in people. Bird flu is uncommon however both the H5N1 and H7N9 strains have infected several hundred people. People generally have no immunity against these viruses.
Avian flu viruses circulate naturally among wild birds and, sometimes, domestic poultry. The virus is found in the droppings, secretions, blood, and organs of infected birds. People who have close contact with birds are at the highest risk of contracting bird flu, since they are the most likely to inhale the virus or get it in their mouth, nose or eyes.
Currently avian flu virus does not spread easily from person to person. Small clusters of infection have been documented and some people have spread the illness directly to their close contacts. However to date there has been no sustained human-to-human transmission