Press Release

Avian ´Flu

Since December 2003, outbreaks of influenza in flocks of chickens due to Avian ´Flu (A/H5N1 virus) have been reported in South Korea, the southern part of Vietnam, Japan, Thailand and Cambodia. All human cases and deaths caused by this virus strain have been reported in two countries ie Vietnam and Thailand. Based on information provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO), there is no evidence at present that human-to-human transmission of Avian ´Flu is occurring. Cases to date have been linked to direct contact with live diseased birds.

Travel

The WHO does not at present recommend any restrictions on travel to any country currently experiencing outbreaks of H5N1 avian infection in poultry flocks, including countries which have also reported cases in humans.

Although there is no restriction on travel to any of the areas where avian ´flu is being reported, travellers are advised to take sensible precautions ie the WHO recommends that travellers to areas experiencing outbreaks of this disease in poultry should avoid bird markets and farms and avoid contact with live poultry. Large amounts of the virus are known to be excreted in the droppings from infected birds.

Food

While trade restrictions have been put in place by some countries to protect animal health, on the basis of currently available data, the WHO does not conclude that any processed poultry products (whole refrigerated or frozen carcasses and products derived from them) and eggs in or arriving from areas currently experiencing outbreaks of avian influenza H5N1 in poultry flocks pose a risk to public health. It is well known that influenza viruses are killed by adequate heat. The WHO is emphasising the importance of good hygiene practices during handling of poultry products, including hand washing, prevention of cross-contamination and thorough cooking of all food from poultry including eggs.

Current Implications for Ireland

The current WHO advice is that there are no additional public health measures required in countries not affected by the outbreak at this time.

This Department and the National Disease Surveillance Centre will continue to monitor the situation.

The following websites contain additional relevant material:
www.who.int
www.fsai.ie
National Disease Surveillance Centre

Advice for travellers to/from Asia

To avoid the risk of contracting avian influenza or of introducing it into Ireland:

When travelling in Asia

Do not visit live bird markets, farms or places that may be contaminated by bird faeces.

On returning from Asia

  1. If you have had contact with poultry or birds or have visited a live bird market, farm or place that may be contaminated by bird faeces:
    Do not have any contact with live poultry/birds in Ireland for at least 5 days and:
    • Shower and wash your hair
    • Dry clean any clothes that may have had contact with poultry/birds or their faeces
    • Clean and disinfect any footwear that was worn on a farm, at any live bird markets or which may have been contaminated by bird faeces.
  2. Do not bring home any meat products, including poultry products, in your personal luggage (unless it is a proprietary brand infant food or special food for medical reasons which does not require refrigeration and is in packaging that is unbroken).