Page last updated at 13:50 GMT, Thursday, 2 March 2006

UK travellers get bird flu advice

People are advised to avoid poultry markets

Public health advice for people travelling to countries that have been affected by bird flu has been published by the Department of Health.

The UK has seen no cases of the deadly H5N1 virus in poultry or wild birds.

But birds in Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey and South East Asia have been affected.

The leaflet will be available from GP surgeries, health centres, and English air and sea ports.

Close contact

Ninety-four people have so far died after contracting the virus from birds in South East Asia and Turkey.

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Earlier this week, a cat in Germany was also found to be infected with H5N1.

The leaflet advises:

  • Do not visit bird or poultry farms and markets
  • Avoid close contact with live or dead poultry
  • Do not eat raw or poorly-cooked poultry or poultry products, including blood
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water

And it says that if people have been in contact with live of dead poultry in an affected country they should be aware of the symptoms of bird flu in humans, which are similar to ordinary flu symptoms and can appear suddenly.

Symptoms can include

  • A fever - a temperature above 38C
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Sore throat and eyes
  • Muscle aches

Launching the guidance, Chief Medical Officer for England Sir Liam Donaldson, said: "The information we are distributing today is to make sure that people travelling to countries affected by H5N1 have up-to-date health advice.

"H5N1 avian influenza is predominantly a disease of birds.

"The virus does not pass easily from birds to people and has not yet been shown to pass from person to person.

"Where people have been infected, it was as a result of close contact with infected poultry or birds."

He added: "The virus has caused severe disease and a high proportion of people have died.

"H5N1 infections have not been reported in this country, but it is important that travellers from the UK have clear factual information to assist them."

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