Avian Flu Issue - January 2006
What Do I Need To Know About Avian Flu?
Avian flu has been all over the news lately, and it's understandable to have some questions and concerns about it. Fortunately, we can tell you that avian flu, also known as "bird flu", is only a remote threat to the United States.
What is avian flu?
Avian flu is an infection caused by avian (bird) influenza (flu) viruses. These flu viruses occur naturally among birds. Wild birds worldwide carry the viruses in their intestines, but usually do not get sick from them. However, bird flu is very contagious among birds and can make some domesticated birds very sick.
Am I at risk?
It's VERY unlikely. Risk to humans from avian flu is generally low because the virus does not usually infect humans. During an outbreak among poultry there is some risk to humans who come in direct contact with infected birds. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention person to person transmission of avian flu is very rare and so far has not continued beyond one person. In other words, unless you have had direct contact with an infected bird or close personal contact with someone who has, you are not at risk for avian flu.
Does the virus spread easily from birds to humans?
No. The World Health Organization reports that although some human cases have occurred in the current outbreak worldwide, this is a small number compared to the huge number of birds infected. People at the highest risk are those who come in contact with live birds, like poultry farmers or people who clean chicken coops. It is not presently understood why some people, and not others, become infected following similar exposures.
Can I get avian flu from eating chicken?
No-if the meat is fully cooked. Cooking kills viruses in poultry, meat, and eggs. It is always in the best interest of your health to fully cook raw poultry meat and to practice proper kitchen hygiene: hand washing and disinfecting of all surfaces that come into contact with poultry.
What can I do to protect myself?
Because avian flu has not yet been reported in this country, there is really nothing you need do currently to protect yourself. If you are traveling to Southeast Asia, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Traveler's Health Webpage (http://www.cdc.gov/travel/seasia.htm) to educate yourself about any disease risks and CDC health recommendations.
Can I be vaccinated against avian flu?
No: there is currently no vaccine for avian flu, though vaccine developments are under way.
Are there any websites that will offer me more information on the Avian Flu?Yes. The following Web sites are very resourceful:
Q&A: Cold Versus Flu
What is the difference between a cold and the flu?
Eat a good breakfast. Studies show that skipping breakfast detracts from scholastic achievement. When there isn't time to sit down and enjoy your morning meal, grab a bagel, piece of fruit, and some juice. Most of these items can be easily stored in your dorm room.
If you must eat fast foods, choose wisely. Limit high fat offerings like french fries, fried chicken or fish sandwiches and watch out for salad dressing. Choose healthy options like fruit and baked potatoes and choose smaller portions.
Keep healthful snacks on hand so if hunger strikes during a late night study session, you won't be tempted by vending machines. Possibilities include fresh or dried fruit, pretzels, unbuttered popcorn, rice cakes or whole wheat cracker. If you have a refrigerator, consider raw vegetables with low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese dip.
Eat plenty of foods that are rich in calcium. People in their early twenties need to be build up stores of calcium in their bodies to prevent osteoporosis in later life. If you don't like milk, try to include ample amounts of low-fat yogurt, low-fat cheese, and green leafy vegetables in your diet.
If you need to lose weight, do it sensibly. Starvation and/or diets that offer a quick fix usually backfire and are harmful. The only safe way to lose weight, feel good while doing it, and keep it off is to eat a balanced diet.
Sugar provides calories in your diet but few other nutrients and it contributes significantly to tooth decay. Use it sparingly and consider sweetening coffee, tea, cereal and fruit with diet sweeteners instead.
The dining hall salad bar can be either an asset or a detriment to you diet depending on how you choose from it. Of course, leafy greens, raw vegetable and fresh fruit are beneficial. But if you choose lot of creamy dressing, bacon bit, and mayonnaise based salads, the calories and fat may equal or even exceed those of a burger and fries.
If you drink alcohol, keep in mind that it supplies calories but no nutritional value. A light beer, a glass of wine, or an ounce of liquor each has about 100 calories. There are also many health problems associated with drinking alcohol.
Drink lots of water. Your body needs at least eight glasses a day, and if you exercise vigorously, you may need more. To remind yourself, carry a water bottle along to class and keep it handy during late night study sessions.
Remember, food is a lot more than nourishment for our bodies. Enjoy and savor it.