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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 April 2006, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
Experts' bird flu answers
As it is confirmed a swan in Scotland did have bird flu, animal and human health experts answer your questions.

CAN THE VIRUS BE SPREAD VIA BIRD FAECES?
Gemma Barron, Edinburgh

Professor John Oxford, virologist at Barts and the London Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry: Yes, most definitely. It can be spread by bird to bird or from bird to human.

People should not go near droppings, and should wash their hands if they accidentally touch some.

But British Waterways added: "There are no known cases in the world of transmission of bird flu to humans as a result of contact with wild birds or their faeces."

IS THERE ANY CHANCE MY TODDLER COULD CATCH BIRD FLU WHEN I TAKE HER TO FEED THE DUCKS IN THE PARK?
Karen, Basingstoke, Hants

Dr Jim Robertson, of the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control: If you are taking your child to a petting zoo or park, you should follow good hygiene standards - that's the main thing to be aware of.

Wash hands afterwards. And don't pick up dead or sick birds.

IF I FIND A DEAD SWAN OR DUCK, WHO SHOULD I CALL?
Stuart Fell, Leamington Spa UK

Government advice - If you find one or more dead swans, ducks or geese, more than three dead birds of the same species - or more than five dead birds of different species, in the same place, you should contact the Defra helpline on 08459 33 55 77.

CAN THE VIRUS BE PASSED ONTO OTHER ANIMALS SUCH AS DOGS AND CATS?
Asked by Claire Hall, Leeds

Professor Oxford: Yes it can. But I would only recommend keeping cats indoors and dogs on leashes if there was an outbreak among chickens.

But overall, the general public shouldn't worry about dogs, or about feeding garden birds.

You have got to get up-close and snuggly with a bird to get ill.

COULD MY HORSE BE AFFECTED?

Dr Robertson: "In the same way that specific flu viruses affect humans, horses are also affected by particular kinds of flu (H3) - known as equine flu.

But there is no evidence that H5N1 has infected horses.

In the same way that it is extremely difficult to infect humans, the same is probably true for horses.

WHAT DOES A BIRD WITH BIRD FLU ACTUALLY LOOK LIKE?
Debbie Clark

Professor Oxford: A chicken will totter around and have bloodshot eyes because the virus affects their brain and organs. It kills them very quickly.

But a wild bird may show no signs whatsoever.

IS COST AN ISSUE IN DECIDING WHETHER TO VACCINATE?
Robin Hughes, Long Melford, UK

Professor Oxford: It is certainly a factor. A chicken might cost about 2 or 3 - about the same price as vaccinating it.

Organic chickens are more valuable. These are the birds that were vaccinated in Holland.

IF A HUMAN CATCHES BIRD FLU, WHAT ARE THEIR CHANCES OF SURVIVAL?
Joanne Sheppard, Salford, UK

World Health Organization - Figures from the WHO say 191 people have been infected, mainly in South East Asia. Just over half - 108 - have died.

I HAVE HANDLED AN INJURED PIGEON. AM I IN DANGER?
Craig Senior, Pontefract, West Yorkshire

Professor Oxford: Pigeons are not thought to be carriers. But again, it is best to wash your hands.

CAN PEOPLE PASS THROUGH THE EXCLUSION ZONE?
Johnny Forsythe, Antrim, Northern Ireland

Dr Bob McCracken, former president of the British Veterinary Association: The exclusion zone around where this bird has been found means there can be no movement of poultry, and poultry should be kept indoors.

If it was found in domestic flocks, the controls would be more stringent - so places where birds were kept would be inspected.

There is no reason why someone shouldn't go fishing.




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