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Avian flu advice for travellers to Asia during Chinese New Year

The Public Health Agency (PHA) is reminding travellers from Northern Ireland going to Asia to celebrate the Chinese New Year on 19th February that avian influenza is circulating in birds in parts of China and that simple precautions can reduce your risk of exposure.

Public Health England (PHE) state that as of 10th February 2015, 571 cases of human infection with avian influenza A (H7N9) virus had been reported.

Since November 2013 there has been widespread reporting of avian influenza A (H7N9) in humans and birds in mainland China. Hong Kong SAR and Taiwan have also reported cases in people who had travelled to an area of China where H7N9 is known to be circulating.

Dr Jillian Johnston, Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA, said, “Birds can carry a wide variety of avian flu viruses and most of these do not cause human illness.

“The two types of avian flu viruses currently causing the greatest concern for human health are H5N1 and H7N9. These infections are typically seen in people who have had close contact with birds. To date there has been no evidence of sustained human-to-human spread of avian flu viruses.

“Although the risk to Northern Ireland residents travelling to the affected areas is very low, those who are planning to visit China, Hong Kong SAR or Taiwan, should minimise their exposure to birds and take the following precautions:

• Avoid visiting live bird and animal markets (including ‘wet’ markets) and poultry farms;
• Avoid contact with surfaces contaminated with animal faeces;
• Avoid untreated bird feathers and other animal and bird waste;
• Do not eat or handle undercooked or raw poultry, egg or duck dishes
• Do not pick up or touch dead or dying birds;
• Do not attempt to bring any poultry products back to the UK; and
• Exercise good personal hygiene with regular hand washing with soap and use of alcohol-based hand rubs.

For further information see the factsheet http://www.publichealth.hscni.net/publications/avian-flu-advice-travellers-asia

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