As the media continues to track the spread of bird flu among chickens and birds in Asia and Europe, most of the emails I received this week concerned the threat posed by bird flu and how people can protect themselves from the disease.
Dear Dr. Manny,
What can one do now as a precautionary measure to prevent catching bird flu?
The basic thing right now that you have to do is watch where you travel in countries where bird flu has been reported. For example, in the European Union, they are recommending that you not eat raw eggs or uncooked poultry. This seems like common sense, but many dishes contain those ingredients, so you need to be careful.
If you travel to an area where bird flu has been reported, I would recommend getting the regular flu shot before you leave. And hygeine is always number one.
I have two bird feeders in my backyard. Should I take them down?
This is a very good question because you can get sick from bird feeders. But, the most common disease you can get is salmonella because of the bird droppings. Salmonella is an intestinal infection, so you have to be careful.
Now, with all of these reports on bird flu migration, I would be careful with bird feeders. But the main concern in terms of disease is salmonella.
What advice do you have for hunters who will be coming into contact with birds during the hunting season?
If you find dead birds in the field, do not touch them. Report them to the authorities. You want to make sure to wash your hands, follow good hygeine, and take precautions of that nature.
I received a flu shot two weeks ago and have not felt well since. Did the flu shot make me sick?
You are not going to get sick from the typical flu shot because it is an inactive vaccine, not a live vaccine. You can have a reaction from the shot that typically occurs one or two days after receiving the shot.
Some people, however, have allergies. One example is an egg allergy. Some flu vaccines do contain small amounts of egg product. If you think you are allergic to eggs, tell your doctor, and you can be given a skin test to see if you would be allergic to the vaccine. People who have allergies should be very aware of possible reactions any time they take a medication and discuss it with their doctors.
I just finished chemotherapy for breast cancer. Is it safe to get a flu shot?
Yes, it is safe. Patients who have had chemo are immuno-depressed. The problem is that the flu shot may not be effective. Remember, in order for you to get immunity from the flu shot, you need to have your immune system up and running. A lot of people who get chemo cannot mount a normal response to the vaccine.
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FOX News medical contributor Dr. Manny Alvarez is the Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Science at Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, N.J., and is Adjunct Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at New York University School of Medicine in New York City. He appears on FNC's daytime programs FOX & Friends and Dayside.