Family Flublog

Monday, March 06, 2006

What you should do now about avian flu

You've got all the information you need now to protect yourself: You know what materials are contaminated with the virus, how it gets into your body, and how to kill it.

BEFORE avian flu comes to town, learn as much as you can from sites like this one. It's not too early to tighten up your control over your personal fly feet (your hands) and to teach your family about this as well, even though you still can't catch avian flu virus from another person. More on family teaching tomorrow.

AFTER the avian flu virus has already reached your country, you need to be in prevention mode. Remember, to catch avian flu you have to be in direct contact with infected birds, their saliva or droppings. If you are not, then you shouldn't have to change your habits, other than to use careful hand washing and the other techniques we will discuss tomorrow.

Areas of concern if you live in a country with avian flu:


Handle raw poultry and raw eggs carefully: keep them separated from any other foods that you don't intend to cook, such as salad greens or bread, and wash your hands before and immediately after handling them. This is the same precaution that you should already be using to prevent salmonella.

All knives, cutting boards and dishes touching the raw poultry or raw eggs should be washed in hot, soapy water, preferably in a dishwasher. Wooden cutting boards should be disinfected with a bleach solution.

Cook all poultry to an internal temperature of 165 degrees; convert the family to scrambled eggs rather than serving them over easy.


Maybe it is time for your house to adopt the practice of removing shoes before you enter your home. Velcro shoe fastenings can make this easy for even young children to do by themselves. Invest in garden clogs that slip off easily before you come in.

I would stop feeding the ducks or pigeons in my neighborhood, or taking my children to play in parks where wild birds congregate. Wild bird droppings in the grass can hitch a ride in the grooves of their sneakers. Ducks in particular are carriers that don't get sick and die but still can have the disease. Avian flu virus can live a month in moist manure.

If you golf, handle your spikes with care. I would clean them outside the house, wearing sturdy rubber gloves, and store them outside the living area. Be sure to wash your gloves while wearing them and then wash your hands when you take the gloves off. Use the same technique if any other shoes get droppings in the grooves of the soles.


Take down any outside wild bird feeders and clean up the area around them of all bird droppings, using a scrub brush on a long handle (to keep from splashing droplets on your face or skin) and antiseptic solution. Throw away the used scrub brush, or soak it in a bleach solution (1/4 cup bleach to a gallon of water).

Personally, I would throw away the bird feeder, if possible, or at least cover it in a plastic bag. Remember, once the wild birds in your country have avian influenza, it can take several years before it dies out among them. Why keep the thing around that long?

Wear old clothes and sturdy rubber gloves for the cleanup. Wash the gloves in soap and water before you take them off, so you won't be handling contaminated gloves with clean hands.

Change your shoes before you come back into the house. Wash your work clothes in very warm to hot water and dry on high.

After you take off your work clothes and they are in the washer, wash your hands thoroughly, either with plain soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizer
Until the wild bird droppings are completely cleaned up and the area has dried off, wipe your pet's paws with alcohol-based sanitizer before you let it into the house.

Keep your pet bird in its cage for at least two days after you have done your cleanup, just in case some virus has snuck in on Fido's feet.


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  • Regarding the avian flu.It's like SARS all over again.
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    the general public. When SARS broke out, people were
    paranoid, fearing an extremely deadly worldwide
    outbreak even though you had a better chance of dying
    from falling down the stairs or being kicked in the head
    by a donkey than by catching SARS.

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