You’ve heard it said over and over again, seemingly drummed into your consciousness ever since you were a wee kid – always remember to wash your hands. Coming back from the playground? Wash your hands. About to sit down to a meal? Wash your hands. Went to the wet market, handled raw ingredients and held bills and loose change? Wash your hands. Sneezed into your hands? Wash them.
For something so simple, it can be very easy to ignore this particular precaution. Other people may even see it as downright cumbersome and inconvenient, and our ever-increasingly hectic and high-speed lifestyles do not help the case for hand-washing. Bus stops, airports, transportation terminals – we’re all in a constant flux get to where we need to be. However, have you ever stopped to think just how many germs you pick up in transit?
The bird flu scare might have died down, but it is still no less a reason to be careful. Many other diseases can be transmitted by contact – influenza, conjunctivitis, fungal infections – the list goes on and on. A very simple and very basic solution to all these? Wash your hands. It helps to always have some soap paper on your person and some tissue in places where both aren’t available. The adage still rings true: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Aside from avoiding contact with possibly contaminated birds and poultry, here are other ways to avoid getting infected:
- check for the latest travel advise from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website or call their hotline at 1-888-246-2675 when traveling especially when it is an international trip
- when traveling to countries that are known to have bird flu outbreaks, avoid poultry farms and bird markets, and avoid contact with any surfaces that may have poultry feces or secretions
- wash hands frequently, or use alcohol based hand sanitizers
- make sure poultry dishes are cooked thoroughly, as the virus can be destroyed in high temperatures
Bird flu poses no food safety risks. This assurance was announced by the Food Standards Agency on its website following the recent case of bird flu in the Suffolk/Norfolk areas.
Poultry products such as meat and eggs are safe for consumption as long as they have been properly cooked. The Agency reiterated the importance of thoroughly cooking poultry meat and eggs, since the H5 virus is killed with high heat. The virus is not transmitted by eating food, but through close contact with an infected bird. The Agency also advised that people should follow normal food hygiene guidelines when handling raw poultry meat.
For more updates on the recent case, visit the Department of Environment, Food, and Agriculture (DEFRA) website.
The strain of bird flu that has infected people in Asia and the Middle East recently is called H5N1. H5N1 is one of the
strains that are dangerous to birds.
The people who became infected with the H5N1 strain of avian flu caught it directly from birds. H5N1 cannot be spread from
person to person. Experts are concerned that the H5N1 strain of bird flu could mutate (change) into a new form that can
spread from person to person. This has happened in past flu outbreaks and has caused what is known as a pandemic. The
symptoms of bird flu in people tend to be similar to the typical flu: fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches. But this flu
can also lead to eye infections, pneumonia, and severe coughing and breathing problems. Doctors hope that certain antiviral
medications will help keep the flu from spreading if it becomes contagious to humans. These medications can’t cure bird flu,
but they can make the symptoms less severe.