The "Bird Flu" is the Avian Influenza A family of viruses, a flu virus that generally affects birds. There are several different strains of this virus, but the one that is causing such worldwide concern is the H5N1 virus. This virus is generally carried by wild birds, particularly waterfowl such as ducks and geese. Viruses in this family have shown the ability to "cross over" and affect species other than birds, including pigs, cats, and humans on rare occasions. It is this ability to affect different species that causes legitimate concern.
While the H5N1 virus has been known to jump from birds to humans under certain conditions, it does not easily transfer from person to person. However, if the virus mutates again, and takes a form that allows it to pass from person to person easily, that may potentially create a pandemic situation, or a worldwide outbreak. Currently, humans have no natural immunity to the H5N1 virus.
The risk of Avian Influenza to humans is almost entirely confined to those who work with domestic poultry on a daily basis, or who own domestic poultry. For people who have no contact with domestic or wild birds, the risk is almost non-existent. So far, most cases of Avian Influenza have taken place in rural areas where flocks of poultry are kept. These domestic birds come in contact with wild birds that carry the virus, and contract the virus themselves. Then, the domestic birds pass on the virus to people who come into close contact with them, including the owners of the birds, and children who play with the birds. For humans, exposure is most likely to occur during slaughter, defeathering, and preparation of the birds for cooking.
The H5N1 virus originated in South East Asia, with Vietnam and China being the two nations with the highest number of cases. From there it has spread to the Middle East and parts of Europe, and has the potential to arrive in the United States with migrating flocks of waterfowl later this year. If you are considering travel outside of the United States, and especially to Asia, it is a good idea to check the travel section of the Centers for Disease Control Web site.
It is important to note that no Avian Influenza cases have been reported in North or South America as of this date.
Prepare yourself and your family for the possibility of a pandemic
As always, the City of Escondido continues to prepare for the possibility of a pandemic along with the variety of other emergencies that could impact civic processes and services. Preparing yourself and your family can reduce the effect of a potential pandemic so that living conditions are as safe and comfortable as possible. This checklist from www.flu.gov will help you gather the information and resources you may need in case of a flu pandemic.
To plan for a pandemic
- Store a two week supply of water and food. During a pandemic, if you cannot get to a store, or if stores are out of supplies, it will be important for you to have extra supplies on hand. This can be useful in other types of emergencies, such as power outages and disasters.
- Periodically check your regular prescription drugs to ensure a continuous supply in your home.
- Have any nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins.
- Talk with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick, or what will be needed to care for them in your home.
- Get involved in your community as it works to prepare for an influenza pandemic.
To limit the spread of germs and prevent infection
- Teach your children to wash hands frequently with soap and water, and model the correct behavior.
- Teach your children to cover coughs and sneezes with tissues, and be sure to model that behavior.
- Teach your children to stay away from others as much as possible if they are sick. Stay home from work and school if sick.
Items to have on hand for an extended stay at home
|Examples of food and non-perishables
||Examples of medical, health, and emergency supplies
|Ready-to-eat canned meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, beans, and soups
||Prescribed medical supplies such as glucose and blood-pressure monitoring equipment
|Protein or fruit bars
||Soap and water, or alcohol-based (60-95%) hand wash
|Dry cereal or granola
||Medicines for fever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
|Peanut butter or nuts
||Fluids with electrolytes
|Canned or jarred baby food and formula
|Other non-perishable items
||Manual can opener
||Tissues, toilet paper, disposable diapers
For more information visit the following Web sites