Avian Influenza (Travel Information)
Advice for Travellers
Countries reporting highly pathogenic avian influenza at present are listed on the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) website.
To reduce the risk of infection, travellers to areas affected by avian influenza outbreaks in birds and humans can follow a few simple personal measures:
Prior to Departure
- Learn more about it - Avian influenza, or 'bird flu', is a contagious disease of animals caused by viruses that normally infect only birds and less commonly, pigs and other mammals. It can spread rapidly between birds, especially in poultry farms or live bird markets where birds are kept close together. Humans are usually infected through close contact with live infected birds as influenza virus is shed in bird droppings, saliva and nasal secretions, spreading it to their feathers.
- Tamiflu ® - The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has advised that 'It is not recommended that travellers take Oseltamivir (Tamiflu ®) with them'.
- Be prepared - Before you travel seek advice from your General Practitioner or Practice Nurse to ensure that any necessary vaccinations and antimalarial tablets (if required) can be arranged. Do this well in advance if possible (at least 4 weeks) as courses of vaccines may take time. There is no vaccine available at present to protect against avian influenza. This is also a good opportunity to discuss other travel health issues.
- Always ensure you have heath insurance cover - Travel insurance is essential and must cover medical evacuation in the event that you become unwell and have to be transported home.
- Consider taking a first aid kit - this should include a small, basic first aid kit, including some means of checking a persons temperature, either a thermometer or strips to place on the forehead and alcohol-based rub for hand hygiene.
- Travel - There are currently no restrictions on travelling to affected areas.
- Avoid contact with poultry (chickens, ducks, geese, pigeons, quail) or any wild birds and the settings where they are present e.g. commercial poultry farms, backyard poultry farms and live poultry markets. Also avoid contact with sick or dead poultry and birds.
- One of the most important ways of preventing the spread of infection is careful and frequent hand washing. If soap, clean water and towels are not available, alcohol hand rub can be used.
- Do not eat uncooked or undercooked poultry or poultry products including food with uncooked poultry blood. All poultry, including eggs must be thoroughly cooked.
- If you become unwell with a fever (temperature of 38° C or more), cough, difficulty with breathing, headache, sore throat, sore eyes or muscle aches, promptly seek out medical attention. The British Embassy can assist with contacting medical aid and relatives. Postpone any further travel until you are well again.
- Do not attempt to bring live poultry or poultry products back into the country.
On Returning Home
- Pay attention to your health on return, particularly over the first 7-10 days.
- If you develop symptoms such as those mentioned above or any other 'Flu like' or respiratory illness during this period, seek immediate medical attention. Contact one of the following:
- Your General Practitioner
- NHS 111 (England): NHS111
- NHS 24 (Scotland): 08454 24 24 24
- Before you visit a health-care setting (e.g. your health centre or a hospital), describe your symptoms and tell the provider that you may have been exposed to avian influenza, giving details of recent travel history.
- Follow the advice that you are given.
- Do not travel while you are unwell and limit your contact with others as much as possible to prevent the spread of any infectious illness until you can be seen by a Doctor.
- Follow good hygiene practices: cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, use tissues only once, disposing of them promptly and carefully, wash hands frequently.
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