August 30, 2004
HONOLULU – The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) issued a physician alert to Hawaii physicians regarding the recent reappearance of Avian Influenza A (H5N1) or the “avian flu” in Asia. While there are currently no cases of Avian Flu in Hawaii healthcare providers are being urged to maintain vigilance for this potentially serious illness, including screening for exposure risks, such as travel history.
Avian influenza viruses circulate among birds worldwide. Although avian influenza A viruses do not usually infect humans, several instances of human infections and outbreaks of avian influenza have been reported since 1997. Most cases of avian influenza infection in humans are thought to have resulted from contact with infected poultry or contaminated surfaces.
Earlier this year, widespread avian flu outbreaks in poultry occurred in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. During these outbreaks, a total of 34 human cases were reported from Thailand and Vietnam.
In late June, outbreaks of avian flu (H5N1) in poultry reappeared in China, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Vietnam reported three human deaths due to confirmed avian influenza (H5N1) infections, during this outbreak.
As a part of a heightened surveillance system, the DOH may be in contact with emergency rooms and clinics statewide to monitor severe respiratory illness in residents and visitors, especially those traveling to or recently returning from Vietnam/Southeast Asia. For regularly updated information on H5N1-affected countries, see the CDC website at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/ .
There are additional ways to safeguard health. You should avoid close contact with people who are sick. If you are sick, stay at home, cover your mouth, and nose when coughing or sneezing, wash your hands often with antibacterial soap, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
For more information regarding vaccination for the common flu call Aloha United Way 2-1-1 or 586-8332, or visit the Hawaii State Department of Health Immunization Website at www.vaxhawaii.com. For regularly updated information on avian flu (H5N1) - affected countries, see the CDC website at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/ .