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Information - NHS Public health advice for those going to or returning from Bird flu-affected areas
A pandemic is the worldwide spread of a disease with outbreaks or epidemics occurring in many countries and most regions of the world.
An influenza (flu) pandemic occurs when a new virus emerges which is markedly different from recently circulating strains. It can infect people and spread readily; causing illness in a high proportion of those infected as they have little or no immunity to it.
The bird flu virus currently affecting poultry and some people in Asia and other areas is the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of influenza.
Experts are concerned that
the H5N1 virus could either:
The University, in conjunction with the Health Protection Agency (HPA) are putting into place a contingency plan to reduce the impact of the flu pandemic.
Past flu pandemics have taught us that a new flu pandemic may not necessarily follow the pattern of seasonal flu: it could strike at any time of the year.
Many important features of a new flu pandemic virus and how it will spread are uncertain. Plans are made using “working estimates” which are derived from theoretical modelling. The time of year of the outbreak, age groups affected and speed of spread of the virus will all influence the overall impact of the pandemic.
Past experience suggests that
a new pandemic flu virus will emerge from China or the Far East. However, it
could emerge from anywhere, including the UK. If it does emerge in the Far
East, it is thought that the pandemic will spread to the UK within a month of
the first outbreak. After it is has reached our shores, it will probably take
2 – 3 weeks to spread across the UK This wave of influenza could last 3-5
months with a peak of cases around week 6. Subsequent waves are likely to
occur weeks or months later. It is estimated that 25% of the population may
become unwell and that 50,000 people may die. Annually in the UK,
approximately 12,000 people die from ‘ordinary’ seasonal flu. These are
mainly elderly or vulnerable members of the population. Pandemic flu can
seriously affect anyone of any age.
Antiviral drugs may be used
in the absence of, or in adjunct to, a vaccine.
The flu virus is spread by respiratory droplet infection. Flu viruses are easily passed from person to person when an infected person talks, coughs or sneezes, which expels the virus into the air. Some of these can linger in the air for some time. The virus may also be spread from hand to face contact. For example, if someone touches a contaminated surface and then inadvertently inhales the virus from their hand when it is in close proximity to their face.
Adults are thought to be
infectious from just before the symptoms develop until approximately 4 – 5
days after the onset of symptoms. Children may be infectious for longer,
typically up to seven days after the onset of symptoms.
Schools and other educational establishments will probably experience a higher rate of infection than the general population. As part of the plan, the Department of Health and NHS Direct will provide national materials and clinical management guidelines.
· Cover nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing
· Dispose of tissues promptly (bag or bin them)
· Avoid non-essential travel and large crowds where possible
· Maintain good basic hygiene – washing hands frequently with soap and water, particularly after going out.
· Cleaning hard surfaces such as kitchen worktops and door handles frequently with normal cleaning products.
· Making sure that your children also follow this advice.
· Stay at home and rest
· Drink plenty of fluids
· Paracetamol eases pain and fever. Regular full doses (2 tablets four times a day for adults. Max 8/day) are better than ‘now and then’.
lozenges, sprays and gargles may also bring some relief if you have a sore
· If you are taking any other medication, check to see if it is OK to take it with ibuprofen
· Ibuprofen should not be taken if you are pregnant, breast feeding, have had previous peptic ulceration or bleeding or have coagulation problems
· If you have liver, kidney or heart problems check with your doctor to see if it is OK to take ibuprofen
· If you have any allergic disorders such as asthma, ibuprofen can make them worse
to see Nurse or GP if condition deteriorates or does not begin to improve in
Children under the age of 16
years must not be given aspirin or ready made flu remedies containing
WHO does not at present recommend any restrictions on travel to any country currently experiencing outbreaks of bird flu in poultry flocks, including countries which have also reported cases in humans.
If you are visiting countries with reported outbreaks of H5N1 bird flu among poultry, you should observe the following measures:
· do not visit bird or poultry farms or live animal markets
· avoid close contact with live or dead poultry
· do not eat raw or poorly-cooked poultry or poultry products, including blood
· wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
Public health advice for those going to or returning from bird flu affected areas
If you have been in contact with live or dead poultry in an affected country be aware of the symptoms of bird flu in humans. They are similar to ordinary flu symptoms and can appear suddenly. They may include:
· a fever (temperature of 38°C or more)
· shortness of breath
· sore throat
· sore eyes
· muscle aches
If you have these symptoms whilst abroad and have been in close contact with live or dead poultry you should seek medical advice locally.
If you develop the above symptoms within seven days of leaving an affected country and you had close contact with live or dead poultry, it is very important that you seek immediate medical attention.
Either telephone your doctor, or ring NHS Direct on 0845 4647