February 11, 2007

Beware! Bird flu can be transmitted to humans

SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga—Everyone is at risk from avian influenza (AI), also known as bird flu, so better be prepared.

This was the message of a Department of Health (DOH) resource speaker, enjoining everyone to take necessary precautions on the deadly AI that naturally occurs among wild birds.

Levy Perez, the DOH representative and one of the resource speakers of the recently concluded two-day seminar-workshop on bird flu awareness campaign held in San Fernando, Pampanga, said that maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which include regular exercise, eating a balanced diet and practicing proper personal hygiene can help in avoiding bird flu infection.

Bird flu is caused by influenza A virus.

Though the Philippines is one of three Southeast Asian countries that remain bird flu-free, the others being Singapore and Brunei, Perez said the DOH as well as other partner organizations such as the United Nations International Children’s Education Fund (Unicef) in launching a massive campaign dubbed “Stay bird flu-free Philippines”, is still very much alarmed that the Influenza A virus, also known as H5N1, could still enter the country and may possibly cause severe infections to humans.

The H5N1 strain is deadly to domestic fowls and can be transmitted from birds to human, according to Perez.

Perez also explained that experts have predicted that there might be a pandemic in two years’ time as records show that this contagious disease has occurred every 30 to 40 years.

Past influenza pandemics occurred in 1847, then in 1889, followed by the Spanish flu in 1918 that killed an estimated 20 to 40 million people.

In 1957, the Asian influenza killed an estimated one to four million people, while the Hong Kong flu in 1968 killed roughly the same number of people.

Meanwhile, symptoms for bird flu for fowls were also revealed in the said seminar. Among these are the swelling of legs, sneezing, cough, nasal discharge, fever, diarrhea, loss of appetite, excessive thirst, crowns and wattle turning purple, ruffled feathers and sudden death.

Perez also divulged that bird flu can be transmitted to humans through inhalation or contamination with infected discharges or feces of sick birds. Symptoms for humans include fever, body weakness or muscle pain, cough, sore throat, may have difficulty in breathing in severe cases, and sore eyes.

To avoid bird flu infection, the public is advised to cook chicken thoroughly; not to sell or buy live chickens and other birds in market while the threat of bird flu remains; not let chicken roam freely and should be kept in cages or pens; not to place chicken, ducks and pigs together in one area, cage or pen; not to catch, get near or keep in captivity wild birds; to report to the nearest agricultural or veterinary office any unusual death or illness of chicken and other birds; and to report to the nearest local health centers any case of respiratory illness with history of exposure to sick or dead chickens and other birds.

Leilanie G. Adriano

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