H7N9 Bird Flu in China - Travel Precautions

H7N9 Bird Flu H7N9 Bird Flu Areas Affected Map

A strain of the H7N9 Bird Flu is spreading in birds and people in China. The outbreak has been concentrated in eastern China, which borders the Shanghai Municipality to the north, however cases have spread to other parts of the Mainland.

Infected cases are in the hundreds and fatalities have reached well into the double digits.

The government has stepped up precautions having learned from previous epidemics including the SARS, the H5N1 Bird Flu and H1N1 Swine Flu epidemics in the recent past but many questions still remain unanswered as this strain of H7N9, first reported at the end of March 2013 is very different from existing H7N9 viruses.

Here are some FAQ's about the virus and precautions that should be taken when traveling to China.

(The following is not and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please consult your physician if you have any health concerns)

What are the Symptoms of H7N9?

Common symptoms are high fever and cough. In most cases, this leads to more severe conditions and complications like pneumonia, multi-organ failure, muscle breakdown, brain damage and even death. There are also reports of milder cases, or of no symptoms at all while carrying the virus.

How is the H7N9 virus transmitted?

Per de Centers for Disease Control:

"Human infections with bird flu viruses are rare, but have happened in the past, usually after close contact with infected birds (both live and dead) or environments contaminated with bird flu virus. Infected birds can shed a lot of flu virus, for example, in their droppings or their mucus. If someone touches an infected bird or an environment contaminated with virus and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth, they may be infected with bird flu virus. There is some evidence that infection may also occur if the flu virus becomes airborne somehow, such as when an infected bird flaps it wings. If someone were to breathe in airborne virus, it's possible they could get infected."

Should you delay or cancel your trip to China?

At this time, the CDC and the WHO do NOT recommend that people delay or cancel trips to China as the virus is not spreading easily from person-to-person. Both organizations are watching the situation closely and travel restrictions are not in place.

Recommendations and Precautions to Prevent Infection

Some simple and common sense precautions all travelers and the regular population for that matter should follow:

  • Wash hands thoroughly and often
  • Don't touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. If you need to touch your face, make sure your hands are clean
  • Cover your mouth when coughing/sneezing, but not with your hand, use a tissue or your sleeve if you must
  • Avoid touching birds or other animals (live or dead)
  • Avoid the wet markets, live bird markets and farms
  • Thoroughly cook chicken and poultry in general, that includes eggs, they should be fully cooked, not runny
  • Avoid the street food stalls
  • If showing any symptoms (high fever, coughing), get treatment right away
  • If showing any symptoms after you return, advise your physician you have been in China

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