How can bird flu be prevented?
The World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are preparing for the possibility that bird flu could spread to people all over the world in what is called a pandemic. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved human vaccines to protect against bird flu. But immunization is not available for the public right now. The vaccines are kept in a U.S. government stockpile.2 Officials are also storing up large supplies of antiviral medicines. The U.S. government has also developed a flu plan. This is a plan to prepare for a pandemic and to make sure that as few people as possible get the virus.
International health organizations now require that all infected birds be killed. Some countries have programs to clean up poultry farms and to check that all birds are healthy before they are sold. In 2004, the United States stopped buying poultry from most Asian countries.
Even though there is a lot of talk about bird flu, most people in the United States don't have to worry about getting it. As of April 2012, no cases of bird flu in humans had been found in the U.S. But you can take steps to lower your chances of getting infected.
- If you live in an area with bird flu, or if you are traveling to a country where there is bird flu:
- Avoid poultry farms, poultry-processing factories or plants, and close contact with chickens, turkeys, or ducks.
- Stay away from open-air markets where live birds are sold.
- If you are traveling to a country where there is bird flu, ask your doctor about getting a regular flu shot. It is best to do this at least 2 weeks before you leave. This will not prevent bird flu, but it may help you avoid getting the regular flu.
- Keep your hands clean by washing them often with soap and warm water or using a hand gel that kills germs. If you use a hand gel, be sure to buy only gels made with alcohol. They do the best job of cleaning your hands.
- Do not eat raw or poorly cooked eggs or poultry. But you can safely eat fully cooked eggs and fully cooked chicken, duck, and turkey, because heat kills the virus.