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Prevention and Treatment of Avian Influenza A Viruses in People

The Best Prevention is to Avoid Sources of Exposure

Currently, the best way to prevent infection with avian influenza A viruses is to avoid sources of exposure whenever possible. Infected birds shed avian influenza virus in their saliva, mucous and feces. Human infections with bird flu viruses can happen when enough virus gets into a person’s eyes, nose or mouth, or is inhaled. This can happen when virus is in the air (in droplets or possibly dust) and a person breathes it in, or when a person touches something that has virus on it then touches their mouth, eyes or nose. Rare human infections with some avian viruses have occurred most often after unprotected contact with infected birds or surfaces contaminated with avian influenza viruses. However, some infections have been identified where direct contact was not known to have occurred.

People who work with poultry or who respond to avian influenza outbreaks are advised to follow recommended biosecurity and infection control practices; these include use of appropriate personal protective equipment and careful attention to hand hygiene. Additionally, CDC recommends that people responding to poultry outbreaks should get a seasonal influenza vaccination every year, preferably at least two weeks before engaging in an outbreak response. Seasonal influenza vaccination will not prevent infection with avian influenza A viruses, but can reduce the risk of co-infection with human and avian influenza A viruses. These people should also be monitored for illness during and after responding to avian influenza outbreaks among poultry.

Antiviral Drugs Can Be Used to Treat Illness

CDC currently recommends treatment with a neuraminidase inhibitor for human infection with avian influenza A viruses. Analyses of available avian influenza viruses circulating worldwide suggest that most viruses are susceptible to oseltamivir, peramivir, and zanamivir. However, some evidence of antiviral resistance has been reported in HPAI Asian lineage avian influenza A(H5N1) viruses (“Asian H5N1 viruses”) and Asian lineage avian influenza A(H7N9) viruses (“Asian H7N9 viruses”). Monitoring for antiviral resistance among avian influenza A viruses is crucial and ongoing.

CDC has posted guidance for health professionals and laboratorians.

U.S. Government Stockpiling Asian H5N1 and Asian H7N9 Vaccines If Needed

The United States federal government maintains a stockpile – vaccines, including vaccine against Asian H5N1 and Asian H7N9 viruses . The stockpiled vaccines could be used if similar viruses were to begin transmitting easily from person to person.  Since influenza viruses change, CDC continues to make candidate vaccine viruses as needed. Creating a candidate vaccine virus is the first step in producing a vaccine. See ” Making a Candidate Vaccine Virus (CVV) for a Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) Virus ” for more information on this process.

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