Last year, the government created a panic in many individuals when it announced that Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) could well become a pandemic in 2007. Without a tested vaccination on the market, people questioned how to protect themselves.
Avian Influenza is a strain of the flu that is prevalent in waterfowl (particularly in wild ducks). The disease is spread through the birds’ droppings. The influenza strain can then carry through soil and water to domesticated birds and then transfer to the humans that care for those birds.
Symptoms of Avian Influenza include conjunctivitis (pink eye), sneezing, muscle pain, coughing, runny nose, fever, and sore throat. If a particularly virulent strain of Bird Flu (A H5N1) is found, the symptoms can quickly worsen leading to respiratory distress and pneumonia.
Typically, the incubation for Avian Influenza is no more than five days from time of contact. If you come down with these symptoms, seek medical advice. Chances are the disease will progress much like the flu, but if complications arise, it makes sense to be prepared to head to the hospital.
If you find it increasingly hard to breathe or if your cough is intense with a high fever, you may have pneumonia. With proper medications and bed rest, pneumonia is treatable.
There is good news. A French pharmaceutical company has developed a vaccination that will be approved by the end of 2006 and then need about six months for mass quantities to have been stocked. In the meantime, the CDC urges people to try to avoid poultry farms and areas with high populations of fowl.
Wash your hands regularly. Watch your children when you are out and about. Finally, open-air markets in foreign countries, especially if live fowl is sold, are an area where many cases of Avian Influenza have developed. Be cautious if you attend an open-air market of this type.