While currently there have been no cases of the bird flu found in the United States, some scientists believe that it is sure to happen sometime in our future. Besides being concerned for their own well-being, many Americans wonder about the health of their extended family members â€" their pets. Here are some things that you can do to protect the furred and feathered in your home.
First, it is important to stay up to date on the current bird flu news. This will let you know what areas of the country are being affected and how at risk you really are. Medical science is also currently changing, so keeping abreast of the news will allow you to be informed if any new recommendations are being made.
Next, practice good personal hygiene. You should wash your hands with soap and water frequently, especially before eating and handling food and after handling pets. Cover your nose and mouth if you need to sneeze or cough, and encourage your kids to do the same.
If you eat poultry, particularly chicken, make sure that it is prepared in such a way that eliminates the possibility of cross-contamination to other foods and surfaces. Ensure that it is stored properly, and is thoroughly cooked before eating.
Cats have become infected with the bird flu virus in other countries. Therefore it is important to keep pet cats inside whenever possible. This will limit their exposure to wild birds, particularly those that are sick or dead. Do not feed your cat raw meat. The bird flu virus can be passed from cat to cat, so should an outbreak occur be cautious on handling strays in affected areas. Do not touch sick or dead stray cats, but do contact your areaâ€™s health department or animal control to come and take care of the animal. If one of your pet cats gets sick, particularly with breathing trouble or a nasal discharge, take it to the vet for medical treatment immediately.
It is not clear at the present time whether or not dogs can contact the bird flu virus, but it is better to err on the side of caution. Keep your dog on a leash whenever it is outside, and limit contact between the dog and birds, as well as dead animals. Any unusual illness in your dog should be reported to your vet immediately.
Pet birds can become infected with the bird flu if they are exposed to infected birds or their droppings. Keep pet birds indoors. Do not introduce any new birds into your home without first having them quarantined and tested for bird flu. Anyone who interacts with the birds should ensure that they have clean hands, clothes, and shoes before doing so. Do not use any bird supplies that may have been contaminated.
If you look after wild birds with a feeder or bird bath, do not allow your children or pets to come in contact with them or the surrounding area. You should wear gloves to protect yourself when touching any items used by wild birds and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. Avoid touching any wild birds or their droppings or feathers.
It is important to have a plan for your family and your pets should a pandemic situation occur. This includes having on hand: a two week supply of water and food for all family members and pets; a few changes of clothing for all family members, in current sizes and season; prescription medications for all family members and pets; essential nonprescription drugs and first aid supplies; any crucial supplies for dealing with small children such as diapers, formula, and toys; supplies needed to move pets if necessary such as leashes and pet carriers; a current medical history of all family members; and a list of emergency contacts and other essential information. Keep all items in a central location in your home, and make sure that all family members know where it is located in case of an emergency.
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