Bird Flu, Avian Influenza A (H5N1)

Normally this type of virus does not infect humans; however since 1997 we have seen several cases of human infection – all transmitted from bird to human.

Symptoms in humans range from typical flu like symptoms such as coughing, fever, sore throat and aching muscles to eye infections and more serious pneumonia and other respiratory problems which have the potential for developing into life threatening conditions.

Who is at risk of Bird Flu?

Since 1997 all cases have been confined to Hong Kong, China, Vietnam and Thailand. In 2003 cases were recorded among poultry farmers in the Netherlands.

Any person in direct contact with poultry infected with avian influenza is currently at risk.

What can I do to prevent Bird Flu?

There is no vaccine to prevent Bird Flu. However studies have shown that patients with the virus can be treated with antiviral medication. Travellers should keep away from poultry farms in risk areas.

Currently this disease can only be transmitted via an infected bird to humans. However with all strains of influenza there is potential for change and experts are concerned that if this should occur we could see an influenza pandemic spread across the world. The WHO has had an influenza monitoring programme in place since 1947 to monitor the influenza activity across the globe.


Note: This information is designed to complement and not replace the relationship that exists with your existing family doctor or travel health professional.  Please discuss your travel health requirements with your regular family doctor or practice nurse.