Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP is the Chair of the Department of Medicine at Michigan State University. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt Medical School, and completed her residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Indiana University.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
There is no commercially available vaccine against bird flu strains for humans, but there is a vaccine against H5N1 sequestered by the U.S. government; the CDC and Chinese researchers are actively researching vaccine development for H7N9.
Practice safe food handling practices: As with all meat, including poultry, when handling or cooking, wash hands with soap and water and disinfect all surfaces such as cutting boards and countertops that contact any raw meats. Viruses can remain active in raw meat. Cooking kills the bird flu virus strains in poultry. Prevention also includes poultry-safety measures such as destroying flocks when sick birds are identified and vaccinating healthy flocks. Combined with import bans, this culling has effectively limited the spread of bird flu (H5N1) in outbreak situations but naturally has negative effects on the poultry and egg industry. For example, Chinese authorities have ordered all chicken flocks suspected to have H7N9 infections to be destroyed and the areas where they were housed or sold sanitized.
Get informed about foreign travel: The CDC advises travelers to countries with known outbreaks of bird flu to avoid visiting poultry farms or have contact with live animals in food markets. In affected countries, avoid ice cream or other foods that may have been produced with raw eggs. Do not contact any surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces from poultry or other animals. Wash hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers (there are some researchers that suggest hand sanitizers may not work as well as hand washing). Talk with a doctor about bringing along an antiviral medication should you feel ill with flu. For current travel information and health advisories from the CDC, see their Travelers' Health page. The CDC has recently published what precautions to take to avoid H7N9 when traveling in China.
If there is an outbreak of bird flu in people, it is possible that antiviral medications might be recommended for healthy people in the area to try to prevent them from getting infected. CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) have stockpiled millions of doses of antiviral medications. If an outbreak occurs, the CDC or WHO will make recommendations regarding management, including the need to use face masks/respirators or other personal protective measures. Epidemics or pandemics of bird flu in people would likely result in closure of schools or businesses in affected areas as public-health authorities try to limit the spread of the disease. Most communities and hospitals have plans in place to respond to pandemics.