Volume 12, Number 6
18 October 2005

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Doctors Discuss Avian Flu

Avian influenza is an infection that has a diverse sub-group population. The variants of the virus include H5N1, which has been shown to cross the species barrier and infect humans. At present there is no definitely documented case of human-to-human transmission of avian viruses, including H5N1. However, epidemics in the 20th century have shown there is a risk of the emergence of a new virus formed by an exchange of genetic material between the human influenza virus and the avian influenza virus if they encounter each other in the same body.

As of October 10, 2005, there had been 117 confirmed cases of avian flu in humans in Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia, leading to 60 deaths. Humans catch the disease through close contact with live infected birds. Birds excrete the virus in their feces, which dry and become pulverized, making it possible for dust containing the new virus to be inhaled. The symptoms of avian influenza are very similar to those of other types of flu: fever, malaise, headache, muscle aches, conjunctivitis, sore throat and cough. This means that some cases of illness thought to have been caused by something else may in fact have been due to bird flu. The virus can also cause progressive respiratory failure, which is the main cause of death in bird flu victims.

Experts say avian flu is not a food-borne virus, so eating chicken is safe. But to prevent any kind of risk, there will be no chicken dishes on the menu at the Bilkent University Tabldot Restaurant. To reduce risk and protect yourself you should get a flu shot and wash your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and warm water.

If you prepare chicken yourself, you should make sure that it is well-cooked, i.e., that the boiling temperature is reached. The virus can also be found both inside and on the surfaces of eggs. Eggs should be washed before preparation, and should also be cooked thoroughly. You should note that refrigeration does not inactivate the virus. Use a separate knife and chopping board for chicken, and wash your hands after handling raw chicken or eggs.

Individuals should do not catch, keep in captivity or go near wild birds. Avian flu is not transmitted from one person to another. Individuals at risk are those who are directly or indirectly exposed to sick chickens and other fowl. We advise travelers to countries affected by bird flu not to go to bird parks, poultry farms or markets where live poultry is sold.

For your safety, please report any unusual death or illness of any kind of bird around the campus to the university health centers. If you have any kind of question, you may call the health centers at ext. 5266-5314 or ext. 1392-1666.
For more detailed information see http://www.bilkent.edu.tr/~bilheal/

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