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Avian Influenza

May 19, 2006

The Fashion Institute of Technology is taking the necessary steps to ensure that the college is prepared for a possible avian flu outbreak. FIT will continue review and implement avian flu preparedness recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and the New York State Department of Health.

In the case of an outbreak, FIT will update this page as needed. Also, be sure to check the CDC website (http://www.cdc.gov/) and New York State Department of Health website (http://www.health.state.ny.us/) for additional, current information.

The following information has been adapted from the CDC website to keep the FIT population informed about avian flu.

What is avian flu?

Influenza A (H5N1) virus – also called “H5N1 virus” – is an influenza A virus subtype that occurs primarily in birds. This virus is highly contagious and can be deadly to birds. Since 2004, outbreaks of avian influenza H5N1 have occurred among wild birds and poultry in countries in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Near East.

H5N1 virus does not usually infect people, but more than 200 human cases have been reported in Azerbaijan, Cambodia, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Thailand, Turkey, and Vietnam. Most of these cases have occurred from direct or close contact with infected poultry or surfaces contaminated with infected products.

Transmission of the virus from one human to another has occurred very rarely. When the H5N1 virus has spread from one person to another it has not continued beyond one person. However, scientists are concerned that because viruses have the ability to change, in time this virus may be able to infect humans more easily and spread from person to person.

If H5N1 virus becomes able to spread easily from person to person, an influenza pandemic (worldwide outbreak of disease) could begin. No one can predict when a pandemic might occur. However, experts from around the world are watching the H5N1 situation in Asia and Europe very closely and are preparing for the possibility that the virus may begin to spread more easily from person to person.

As of January 2006, no cases of avian influenza (H5N1) have been detected in wild birds, poultry, or people in North America. Currently, poultry remains safe to eat in the United States. It is possible that sometime in the future avian influenza will infect wild birds and poultry in the United States.

You can visit the CDC website for additional, current information. This site is accurate and updated regularly.

How does H5N1 virus differ from seasonal influenza viruses that infect humans?

Seasonal influenza (often called 'the flu') is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Seasonal flu occurs every year and can cause mild to severe illness in people. The best protection against seasonal flu is vaccination and hand washing.

An influenza pandemic would be a global outbreak of disease that occurs when a new 'influenza A' virus appears or emerges in the human population, causes serious illness in people, and then spreads easily from person to person worldwide. Currently, there is no pandemic of avian flu since widespread human to human spread of avian influenza has not occurred.

Is there a vaccine?

There currently is no commercially available vaccine to protect humans against H5N1 virus that is being seen in Asia and Europe. However, vaccine development efforts are taking place. For more information about H5N1 vaccine development process, visit the National Institute of Health website:  http://www.nih.gov/.

Travel recommendations

At this time, the CDC does not recommend any travel restrictions to affected countries. However, please review the travel recommendations below.

Before any international travel to an area affected by H5N1 avian influenza:

  • Visit CDC's Travelers’ Health website at http://www.cdc.gov/travel to educate yourself and others who may be traveling with you about any disease risks and CDC health recommendations for international travel in areas you plan to visit. For other information about avian influenza, see CDC's Avian Influenza website: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/index.htm.
  • Be sure you are up to date with all your routine vaccinations, and see your doctor or health-care provider, ideally 4-6 weeks before travel, to get any additional vaccination medications or information you may need.
  • Assemble a travel health kit containing basic first aid and medical supplies. Be sure to include a thermometer and alcohol-based hand gel for hand hygiene.
  • Identify in-country health-care resources in advance of your trip.
  • Check your health insurance plan or get additional insurance that covers medical evacuation in case you become sick. Information about medical evacuation services is provided on the U.S. Department of State web page Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/flu/flu_1181.html.

During travel to an affected area:

  • Avoid all direct contact with poultry, including touching well- appearing, sick, or dead chickens and ducks. Avoid places such as poultry farms and bird markets where live poultry are raised or kept, and avoid handling surfaces contaminated with poultry feces or secretions.
  • As with other infectious illnesses, one of the most important preventive practices is careful and frequent hand washing. Cleaning your hands often with soap and water removes potentially infectious material from your skin and helps prevent disease transmission. Waterless alcohol-based hand gels may be used when soap is not available and hands are not visibly soiled.
  • Influenza viruses are destroyed by heat; therefore, as a precaution, all foods from poultry, including eggs and poultry blood, should be thoroughly cooked.
  • If you become sick with symptoms such as a fever accompanied by a cough, sore throat, or difficulty breathing or if you develop any illness that requires prompt medical attention, a U.S. consular officer can assist you in locating medical services and informing your family or friends. Inform your health care provider of any possible exposures to avian influenza. You should defer further travel until you are free of symptoms, unless your travel is health-related.

After your return:

  • Monitor your health for 10 days.
  • If you become ill with a fever plus a cough, sore throat or trouble breathing during this 10-day period, consult a health-care provider. Before you visit a health-care setting, tell the provider the following:
             1. your symptoms,
             2. where you traveled, and
             3. if you have had direct contact with poultry or close contact with a severely ill person. This way, he or she can be aware that you have traveled to an area reporting avian influenza.
             4. Do not travel while ill, unless you are seeking medical care. Limiting contact with others as much as possible can help prevent the spread of an infectious illness.

Adapted from the Centers for Disease Control Website

For additional questions, please refer to the CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/ or the New York City Department of Health http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/home/home.shtml.
You can also call the FIT Health Services at (212) 217-7625.

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