Avian influenza and Lunar New Year festivities: vigilance and precautions

During preparations for the Lunar New Year festivities in Asia there is increased trading and handling of poultry. In addition, the Lunar New Year travel rush will start in February 2024. In response, FAO has issued an alert to all Chief Veterinary Officers at: https://www.fao.org/3/cc9524en/cc9524en.pdf.

Because of ongoing reports of avian influenza (AI) outbreaks in domestic and wild birds in the region, the increased levels of trade and travel will lead to a higher risk of exposure in the human population. Several animal influenza viruses currently circulating in poultry have the potential to transmit to humans and may cause severe disease.

Although most human infections so far have been sporadic following contact with infected poultry and/or their environments, with no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission, vigilance remains crucial.

In view of the upcoming festivities, and continual sporadic reports of human infection with AI, there is a need to reinforce important messages regarding hygiene and other precautions.

General precautions

  1. Limit exposure to potentially infected poultry and environments
    • The public should minimize contact with animals in areas known to be affected by animal influenza viruses, including farms and other settings where live animals may be sold or slaughtered, and avoid contact with any surfaces that appear to be contaminated with animal faeces. Children, older people, pregnant and postpartum women (up to 6 weeks) or people with suppressed immune systems should neither collect eggs nor assist with slaughtering or food preparation.
    • The public should strictly avoid contact with any sick or dead animal, including wild birds, and should report dead animals or request their removal by contacting local wildlife or veterinary authorities.
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