Bird Flu: WHO’s Recommendations for Travelers

The World Health Organization has issued a set of recommendations relating to travelers coming from and going to countries experiencing outbreaks of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza. These recommendations are in line with Phase 3 in the WHO six-phase scale of pandemic alert: human infections with a novel influenza virus subtype are occurring, but at this time, the virus does not spread efficiently or in a sustainable way among humans. These recommendations may change according to change in the epidemiological situation and related risk assessments.

WHO does not recommend any restrictions on travel to any areas affected by H5N1 avian influenza or to areas experiencing outbreaks of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza in birds, including countries which have reported associated cases of human infection.

At this time, WHO does not recommend screening of travelers coming from H5N1 affected areas. Local authorities may, however, usefully provide information to travelers on risks, risk avoidance, symptoms, and when and where to report should these symptoms develop.

Advice to Travelers
WHO advises travelers to avoid contact with high-risk environments in affected countries. Travelers to areas affected by avian influenza in birds are not considered to be at elevated risk of infection unless direct and unprotected exposure to infected birds (including feathers, feces and undercooked meat and egg products) occurs.

WHO continues to recommend that travelers to affected areas should avoid contact with live animal markets and poultry farms and any free-ranging or caged poultry. Large amounts of the virus are known to be excreted in the droppings from infected birds. Populations in affected countries are advised to avoid contact with dead migratory birds or wild birds showing signs of disease.

Direct contact with infected poultry, or surfaces and objects contaminated by their droppings, is considered the main route of human infection. Exposure risk is considered highest during slaughter, de-feathering, butchering and preparation of poultry for cooking. There is no evidence that properly cooked poultry or poultry products can be a source of infection.

Travelers should contact their local health providers or national health authorities for supplementary information.

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