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Fact Sheets

Avian Influenza, Pandemic Influenza

What is pandeimc flu?
What is the difference between a pandemic and an epidemic?
What is avian influenza or bird flu?
How is bird flu spread?
What are the symptoms of avian influenza in people?
How is avian influenza in humans treated?
Is it safe to eat chicken or turkey?
What is the Health Department doing about the threat of bird flu?
How can I protect myself from bird flu?
How can I get ready for a possible pandemic influenza outbreak?
Where can I get more information?

What is pandeimc flu?
Pandemic flu occurs when a new or mutated influenza virus appears or emerges in the human population and causes a global outbreak of the disease, resulting in serious illness as it spreads from person to person. Pandemic flu has occurred naturally throughout history. There have been four pandemics in the last 100 years:

Pandemics are unpredictable and it is hard to know when one will occur, what type of flu it will be, and how severe it will be. A flu pandemic could cause many deaths and severe illnesses, disrupt some parts of daily life, and limit the amount of medical care and other services available. Gatherings of people might be limited to control the spread of the disease (schools and businesses may close, sporting events could be cancelled, and transportation could be limited). Additionally, hospitals could be overloaded if doctors and nurses are sick. There also may be more people with the flu than the hospitals can take. In this case, some people would need to be cared for in their homes or other places.

What is the difference between a pandemic and an epidemic?
Pandemics are different from seasonal outbreaks of influenza because seasonal outbreaks are caused by subtypes of influenza viruses that are already in existence among populations. Pandemic outbreaks are caused by new subtypes being developed, those that have never circulated or have not been around for a long time.

What is avian influenza or bird flu?Rooster
Avian influenza or bird flu is an infection caused by bird flu viruses. These flu viruses occur naturally among birds and they carry the viruses in their intestines, but usually do not get sick from them. However, bird flu is very contagious among birds and can make some domesticated birds, including chickens, ducks, and turkeys, very sick and kill them.

How is bird flu spread?
Birds act as hosts to influenza viruses by carrying the virus in their intestines and shedding it in bodily fluids, such as saliva, nasal secretions and feces. Other birds become infected when they come in contact with these fluids. Humans can become infected through contact with infected poultry or these contaminated fluids.

What are the symptoms of avian influenza in people?
Symptoms of avian influenza in humans range from typical influenza-like symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat, and muscle aches) to eye infections, pneumonia, acute respiratory distress, viral pneumonia and other severe and life-threatening complications.

How is avian influenza in humans treated?
Health care providers will treat their patients based on the severity of their symptoms. Treatment may include hospitalization, supportive care and/or the use of antivirals.

Is it safe to eat chicken or turkey?
Yes, it is safe to eat poultry that has been fully cooked. General precautions should always be taken when handling any raw meat, including raw eggs, to avoid possibly spreading germs. These measures include:

What is the Health Department doing about the threat of bird flu?
The Health Department’s response to bird flu would be similar to its response to any other disease outbreak that could require isolation, vaccination or medication of a large group of people. The Health Department’s disaster response plans are designed to be utilized in any number of disease outbreaks. Included in these plans are the opening of sites in our communities, if necessary, where medication or vaccines could be widely dispensed to the public.

In addition, the Health Department already has programs in place to monitor for any possible disease outbreaks. If it becomes apparent that bird flu is present in humans in the United States, the Health Department, along with the hospitals and health labs, would enhance their disease surveillance efforts.

If an outbreak of avian influenza or any other type of flu pandemic were to occur in our community, the Health Department would utilize all the tools at its disposal to respond to this threat.

How can I protect myself from bird flu?Woman sneezing
Health officials recommend people continue to take the same precautions to protect themselves against avian flu as they would from colds and other flu.

Precautions include:

How can I get ready for a possible pandemic influenza outbreak?
When preparing for a possible emergency situation such as pandemic influenza, it's best to think first about the basics of survival, including fresh water, food, clean air and warmth. Because it may be necessary to protect yourself and others from contracting the virus, you may have to remain in your home for several days. The checklist below contains certain items that may be especially important if you cannot leave your home and people cannot enter.

Where can I get more information?
Kentucky:
Kentucky Department for Public Health pandemic flu information
Kentucky Community Pocket Information Guide (or call 859.363.2036 to receive a hard copy)
Kentucky Department of Agriculture Avian Influenza page

National:
Flu.gov
CDC’s Resources for Pandemic Flu

Global:
World Health Organization: Avian flu

Or, for more information on the Health Department’s programs, please call 859.341.4264.

Source: Northern Kentucky Health Department, CDC, Kentucky Department for Public Health