Letter to Canadians
We would like to provide you with information on avian influenza as well as links to websites where you will be able to continue to monitor the situation. Further communications regarding avian influenza in Switzerland, and the Geneva area in particular, will be provided to you as the situation warrants.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), the lead Federal authority on this matter, continues to closely monitor occurrences of avian influenza A (H5N1), or "bird flu", in birds and in humans in Asia and Europe, with particular attention to the current outbreak in humans in Turkey. At this time, human cases of avian influenza A (H5N1) have been reported in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, China, and most recently Turkey. Infection in humans has occurred in three distinct periods or waves of activity, since late-December 2003.
The current wave of activity has been ongoing since December 16, 2004 and sporadic cases continue to be reported in all six countries. Human cases of avian influenza A (H5N1) have been reported in China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Turkey. Most human cases have been caused by direct contact with infected fowl. Human-to-human transmission, although rare, is suspected to have occurred in some of the documented cases.
According to the World Health Organization, while the number of outbreaks in birds continues to increase, the transmission of H5N1 to humans remains sporadic and there is currently no evidence of efficient human-to-human transmission.
Public Health Agency of Canada Recommendations
The Public Health Agency of Canada advises Canadians residing in or traveling to areas affected by avian influenza to avoid consuming undercooked poultry and eggs, as well as egg products. Evidence shows that the H5N1 virus becomes inactive when subjected to high temperatures. Travellers are advised to avoid poultry farms and markets where live animals, such as chickens and ducks, are sold.
Travellers should always maintain high standards of hygiene, including thorough hand-washing. Travellers are also advised to obtain the influenza vaccine (commonly known as the "flu shot") before travel. While the current season flu shot does not protect against avian influenza, immunization would reduce the likelihood of an individual becoming infected with both human and avian forms of influenza. If a person were infected with both viruses at the same time, it is possible that the two viruses would "mix" and mutate into a new virus that would be spread efficiently and against which humans would have no immunity. PHAC routinely recommends that Canadian international travellers seek the advice of their personal physician or travel clinic prior to international travel, regardless of the destination, for an individual risk assessment to determine individual health risks and the need for vaccination, preventative medication, anti-viral drugs, and personal protective measures. PHAC also recommends that travellers who become sick or feel unwell upon return to Canada seek a medical assessment with their personal physician. Travellers should inform their physician, without being asked, that they have been traveling or living outside of Canada and where they have been.
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada Notice
A vaccine for avian influenza A (H5N1) is not currently available. However, an anti-viral medication, called Tamiflu (oseltamavir), may be effective in treating infection with the H5N1 virus.Canadians residing or traveling for an extended period of time in regions experiencing avian influenza activity should consult their personal physician or a travel clinic prior to departure to discuss health concerns. Canadian offices overseas are not in a position to provide medicine or medical treatment to Canadian citizens.
I hope that the information provided above will be useful to you and your family. Questions and answers to the most frequently asked questions are included in annex. Further information is available on Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada's Global Reporting on Avian Influenza page, updated frequently.
If you have any concerns, please direct your questions to the:
Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations
5 Ariana Street
1202 Geneva, Switzerland
fax 41-22-919-9233 or
The Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations
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