Avian flu

Cold & Flus

What is Avian flu?

Avian flu, commonly known as bird flu, is an infection caused by influenza viruses that occur naturally in birds. These viruses can mutate in a way that allows them to infect other animals, and sometimes humans. The strain known as H5N1 has been circulating in Asia for several years. Almost all human cases of H5N1 have been contracted from direct contact with dead or visibly ill birds, and their droppings.

It spreads by:

  • If the virus mutates into a form that can pass easily from person to person, it probably spreads through the air in coughs and sneezes and through infected mucus on hands or tissues, for example. It may also be spread in human faeces.

  • Other people can probably become infected both by breathing in infected droplets and by touching their nose, eyes or mouth with hands that have picked up the virus from an ill person or a contaminated object.

  • The virus may also be able to spread on food.

The symptoms are:

  • At first, they’re similar to seasonal flu – fever, aches and pains, sore throats and coughs. Some people also develop itchy, watering eyes.

  • However, people can then rapidly become very ill, with pneumonia for example, or even organ failure.

  • The incubation period for Avian flu may be longer than for other strains of flu, where symptoms normally develop within 2-3 days.

How to avoid avian flu

  1. Disinfect all surfaces in your house and items that are often touched by different people – handles, doorknobs, light switches and taps, for example – with a bleach-based product such as Domestos Bleach Spray or Domestos Extended Germ-Kill. Flu germs can survive for days in these places.

  2. Stay away from sick or dead birds and animals, and follow good hygiene routines after any contact with birds and animals.

  3. Avoid touching your face, nose, mouth or eyes with your hands, especially when you’ve been in public places.

  4. If you have to, wash your hands first, or clean them with an alcohol hand rub.

  5. Wash your hands often, especially after blowing your nose or touching items that may be contaminated, and before preparing food or dealing with children and others more vulnerable to infection.

How to keep hands clean through the day

For times when you’re out and about, consider carrying around an alcohol hand sanitiser, which can take on germs without needing soap and water.

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