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Outbreaks of H5N1 avian influenza in humans reported in Southeast Asian countries; Taiwan CDC urges public to avoid contact with birds and take precautions against infection when traveling to Southeast Asia

Recently, a number of outbreaks of H5N1 avian influenza in humans have been reported in several countries in Southeast Asia. The Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (Taiwan CDC) urges the public to take precautions against avian influenza to protect themselves from the threat of the virus. According to the surveillance data collected by Taiwan CDC, outbreaks of H5N1 avian influenza in humans have occurred in Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar and Vietnam. In addition, all infected cases have contacts with poultry prior to becoming ill. Therefore, Taiwan CDC advises travelers visiting areas affected by avian influenza to avoid contact with birds and pay attention to personal hygiene. According to the data provided the World Health Organization (WHO), this year, 4 cases of human infection with H5N1 have been confirmed in Cambodia and all four cases have died; and, 5 cases of human infection with H5N1 have been confirmed in Indonesia and four have died. Further, outbreaks of H5N1 avian influenza in poultry have also occurred in Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam this year. According to the data provided the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), this year, 20 outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza have been confirmed in Vietnam, 10 outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza have been confirmed in Myanmar and 1 outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza has been confirmed in Cambodia. Hence, avian influenza viruses continue pose threats to public health. In light of the number of Vietnamese and Indonesian labors, nursing assistants and spouses currently residing in Taiwan, and frequent contacts due to business activities and international travel between Taiwan and countries in Southeast Asia, Taiwan CDC once again would like to urge travelers visiting areas affected by avian influenza to avoid contact with birds and bird excretion or buying poultry products and eat only fully cooked poultry products. Further, Taiwan CDC warns the public of the dangers associated with smuggling poultry. Taiwan CDC recommends people in high-risk groups to be vaccinated against H5N1 and advises travelers to visit general hospitals under the Department of Health, the outpatient travel clinics at 11 contracted hospitals in the nation, and local health centers to receive consultation services, vaccination and prophylaxis in order to ensure their health and prevent the spread of diseases. If travelers develop fever and flu-like symptoms upon returning to Taiwan, they could consult quarantine officers at the airport. If their symptom persists after returning home, they should put on a surgical mask and seek immediate medical assistance. They should also inform the doctor of their travel and contact history and comply with examination and treatment procedures. Doctors are urged to stay vigilant against cases of avian influenza, take infection control measures, and report cases of avian influenza to the health authorities as soon as possible. For more information concerning human avian influenza outbreaks and related prevention measures, please visit the following website: http://www.cdc.gov.tw/english/index.aspx or call the toll-free Communicable Disease Reporting and Consultation Hotline, 1922. Source:Centers for Disease Control, R.O.C.(Taiwan)