Public urged not to panic over avian flu

Ministry: no danger to those who travel to Romania and Turkey.

birds flying  88 (photo credit: )
birds flying 88
(photo credit: )
The Health Ministry urges the public not to panic about avian flu affecting fowl in Turkey and a few other countries abroad, despite reports in the Hebrew media that have caused jitters among the public. “We can't do anything about the media, which are scaring people. The important thing,” said a ministry spokesman, “is for those at high risk from ordinary influenza, the elderly and those of all ages with chronic diseases, to get vaccinated against it to help protect against complications.” The shots are now available from all the health funds, free to high-risk groups and at a nominal fee for all others. The ministry, which is monitoring the avian flu situation abroad, said Saturday night that there was no danger to those who travel to Romania and Turkey as tourists. The only thing they should be careful about is not to go to open markets where live fowl are sold or to farms with poultry, which might be affected. However, they can eat cooked meat and poultry of any kind, the ministry spokesman said. Eggs and poultry from the affected areas are not imported. So far there has been no sign here of human infection with the potentially dangerous H5N1 strain of avian flu, which has killed large numbers of birds and 60 people in four Asian countries this season. The ministry has NIS 44 million worth of Tamiflu, the oral antiviral agent that works very well against the avian flu virus when taken early. The supply is adequate for vaccinating 400,000 high-risk patients and health care workers, but the ministry is seeking additional Treasury funding for a larger supply in the event of an emergency. All influenza originates in birds, but avian flu is a type with an inefficient way of spreading from birds to poultry and then possibly to agricultural workers who deal directly with live poultry. In the event that avian flu reaches the human population, the ministry has a master plan for pandemic influenza that includes clinics and hospitals. In that case, Tamiflu is stockpiled for the first wave of people who are diagnosed by lab tests as having been infected and then for some subsequent waves. The symptoms of avian flu in humans are the same as in ordinary flu, but there could be more serious complications in the lungs, such as pneumonia. If a patient is seriously ill, the anti-viral drug is not very effective and other means are necessary, ministry officials say.
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