Bird Flu in China April 12, 2013 By Cait Hartwyk Leave a Comment Key Takeaways: Recently revealed Bird Flu strain (H7N9) has resulted in over 3 dozen human cases in China. Symptoms of bird flu are generally like that of any other type of influenza. When traveling, avoid contact with birds and other animals. If you eat poultry, make sure it is cooked properly and that it is served straight out of the oven. Background Avian Influenza A, more commonly known as bird flu, first appeared in 2003. Between 2003 and 2011, 500 confirmed cases have been recorded by the World Health Organization, resulting in approximately 300 deaths. Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the Pacific Rim all have lab-confirmed cases on record, and the majority of bird flu-related deaths have occurred in Egypt, Indonesia, and Vietnam. New Strain Revealed in 2013 A new strain of avian influenza, H7N9, has recently emerged in China. As of April 2013, there have been 33 confirmed cases of H7N9 in China alone. At the time of this writing, ten people in China have succumbed to the virus. H7N9 has not appeared in any other country, and officials are working hard to take preventative action by banning the sale of poultry and halting flights of any homing pigeons. Bird Flu Symptoms Unlike other flu viruses, Bird Flu does not easily transmit from person to person. Instead, the virus occurs when people come into contact with birds that have the disease. Indeed, Stratfor, a global intelligence company that also offers travel security assessments for individuals and businesses in high-risk, challenging regions, recently posted an in depth analysis of the current situation in China. Since there have been no confirmed human to human infections, Stratfor observed, “This indicates strongly that H7N9 cannot be transmitted between humans, and the World Health Organization has said that there is no proof of human-to-human transmission. Although the possibility of an eventual mutation cannot be ruled out, the current lack of human-to-human transmission is an important difference between this flu strain and the SARS virus, which infected more than 8,000 people in 2003.” Nonetheless, viruses do mutate, so the CDC urges people to use caution, understand the best ways to prevent the disease, and be aware of bird flu symptoms. Symptoms of bird flu are generally like that of any other type of influenza. Watch for coughing, fever, and muscle aches. Some people also suffer from diarrhea, muscle pain, nausea, pink eye, and a sore throat. The virus can lead to breathing difficulties and pneumonia. If you believe you have bird flu, seek medical attention immediately. Prevention Tips When traveling, avoid contact with birds and other animals. If you do touch an animal, wash your hands immediately in warm, soapy water. Carry hand sanitizer, and use it if you are not close to a sink. If you eat poultry, make sure it is cooked properly and that it is served straight out of the oven. Do not eat any poultry that has been sitting around in warmers. Avoid eating poultry from street vendors. In restaurants, order your eggs well-done, and do not eat runny yolks. Do not purchase live or fresh poultry. Also, avoid purchasing produce and other goods at markets where live animals are being sold. Awareness and proper precautions are always the best steps to avoid disease. If you have a trip planned for China soon, it is especially important that you consult with your travel health specialist for further travel health precautions.