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Avian Influenza (Travel Information)

Advice for Travellers

Countries currently reporting outbreaks of avian influenza are listed on the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) website.

If you are travelling to any areas affected by an outbreak of avian influenza in birds or humans, you can follow a few simple measures to reduce your risk of infection.

Prior to Departure

  • Learn more about it: Avian influenza, or 'bird flu', is a contagious disease caused by viruses that normally infect only birds. It can spread rapidly between birds, especially in poultry farms or live bird markets where birds are kept close together. The avian influenza virus is shed in bird droppings, saliva and nasal secretions, and can be found on their feathers.  People are only rarely infected, and usually from having close contact with live infected birds.
  • Check Travel Restrictions: Restrictions due to an outbreak of avian influenza are highlighted on the specific destination pages of fitfortravel; and on the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) website.
  • Be prepared: Before you travel, ensure you are aware of all health risks at your destination.  Seek pre-travel health advice:
    • Even though there is no vaccine available at present to protect against avian influenza, this would be a good opportunity to discuss other travel health issues, and ensure that necessary vaccinations against other infections and antimalarial tablets (if required) can be arranged.
    • Try to seek travel advice well in advance (at least 4 weeks) of your trip if possible, as courses of vaccines may take time. 
  • Ensure you have adequate heath insurance cover: Travel insurance is essential and must cover medical evacuation and repatriation 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 body temperature, and an alcohol-based rub for hand hygiene.
    • See the first aid page for further information.

During Travel

  • Avoid contact with poultry (chickens, ducks, geese, pigeons, quail) or close contact with wild birds and places where they are present, such as commercial poultry farms, backyard poultry farms or live poultry markets. Also avoid contact with sick or dead poultry and birds.
  • Hand washing: Frequent and careful hand washing is one of the most important ways of preventing the spread of infection. If soap, clean water and towels are not available, alcohol hand rub can be used. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth unless your hands are clean.
  • Do not eat raw or undercooked poultry or poultry products including food containing uncooked poultry blood. All poultry, including eggs must be thoroughly cooked.
  • If you become unwell with a fever cough, difficulty breathing, headache, sore throat, sore eyes or muscle aches, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
    • A list of doctors and medical facilities worldwide can be accessed on the FCDO website.
    • Postpone any further travel until you are well again. 
  • Do not attempt to bring live poultry or poultry products back into the UK.

On Returning Home

  • Pay attention to your health, particularly over the first 10 days after you return home.
  • If you develop symptoms such as those mentioned above, or any other 'flu-like' or respiratory illness during this period, seek immediate medical attention. Call one of the following:
    • Your General Practitioner
    • NHS 111 (England): Tel 111
    • NHS 24 (Scotland):  Tel 111
  • Before visiting a health-care setting such as your local health centre or hospital, describe your symptoms to a health professional over the phone, and tell the provider that you may have been exposed to avian influenza, giving details of your recent travel history.
    • Follow the advice that you are given on the call.
  • Do not travel while you are unwell. Limit your contact with others as much as possible to prevent the spread of any infectious illness until you can be seen.
  • Follow good hygiene practices: cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, use tissues only once, disposing of them promptly and carefully, and wash your hands frequently.

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