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Avian flu could be a real killer; here?s what you need to know and do

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  • Avian flu could be a real killer; here?s what you need to know and do

    Avian flu could be a real killer; here?s what you need to know and do

    By Miela Gruber, 2006 graduate, ND candidate and Jennifer Johnson, ND, Clinical Faculty UB

    Avian flu (avian influenza strain H5N1), more commonly known as ?bird flu,? is quickly becoming a common household term. Because of ongoing reports of infected humans, there is a push for worldwide awareness and preparedness.

    In response, the United States government recently issued a report stating that an outbreak of bird flu could lead to quarantines, travel restrictions, and create an economic downturn with damage comparable to that caused by war. Ultimately, the report estimates, a serious outbreak could take the lives of two million people.

    Preparedness involves common sense precautions to reduce the likelihood of infection from not only avian flu but other flu strains as well. Good hygiene ? especially hand washing, proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle ? can promote immunity and assist in a quick return to health in the case of flu.
    The avian flu was first discovered in Vietnam nine years ago. Since then, according to the World Health Organization, only 208 cases worldwide have been confirmed by laboratory analysis.

    Risk to humans
    Humans contract bird flu when they are infected by a virus that lives in sick poultry. All of the documented human cases occurred in people who have had direct and very close contact with infected birds or surfaces exposed to either infected poultry mucous or excrement. The virus has not spread from human to human or beyond the person infected. It does not yet have this ability.

    For bird flu to cause a pandemic, the virus needs to acquire a genetic mutation allowing it to be transferred from person to person. This type of mutation has not occurred in H5N1 and infectious disease specialists are working to prevent this. To keep us safe at home, the United States has an embargo on all poultry from countries affected by the avian influenza virus.

    Precautions to take
    The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the following to kill any possible avian flu virus that may be present in store-bought poultry:
    First, wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw poultry.

    Next, thoroughly wash cutting boards and utensils with soap and warm water to avoid contamination of other foods.

    Be certain to cook poultry to a temperature of 165 degrees F.
    Cook eggs until whites and yolks are firm.

    Cleanliness a sound practice
    General recommendations to avoid the spread of flu viruses (not exclusively avian) also include washing hands frequently, covering the mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, and not sharing dishes, utensils, wash cloths or face towels with persons who are infected.

    If you are sick with the flu, do not expose others unnecessarily. Stay home and rest. There is no reason to wear a mask, or stop eating poultry.
    Good nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress management are important ways to keep your immune system strong. Excess alcohol and sugar can have a strong negative affect on your immunity, so use good judgment and moderation.

    UB campus services available to you
    Naturopathic Health Clinic: If you are feeling sick, the doctors in the Naturopathic Health Clinic in the Health Science Center at the university are well trained in handling a wide variety of health concerns, including flu and colds, using natural and preventive measures. The clinicians there use a number of specific, individualized treatments for acute and chronic illnesses including nutritional therapeutics, botanical medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Homeopathy and healthy lifestyle counseling. The student clinicians and supervising doctors can answer any of your questions or concerns regarding avian flu exposure.

    Normal clinic hours are Mondays, 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Tuesdays, 2:30 to 6 p.m.; Wednesdays, 2:30 ? 5:30 p.m.; Thursdays, 1:30 ? 4:30 p.m., and Fridays, 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call (203) 576-4349 for an appointment.
    UB?s Student Health Services: Provides urgent care for illnesses and injuries to students. Located in Warner Hall, the service is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The phone number is (203) 576-4712.