Wild birds here are free of avian flu
I have a bird feeder in my yard. Because of the bird flu, should I be concerned for my family or neighbors that I'm inviting birds to come? Is there any way to get this disease just by having birds around the property?
Q: As an avid golfer, I've come across dead birds or other creatures, such as squirrels (on the mainland) on courses. Many golfers from Asia travel to Hawaii and beyond to experience the great courses. Can the bird virus be transferred from debris left on golf clubs?
Answer: It's obvious from these and other questions that there is still a lot of confusion about how avian flu, particularly the H5N1 virus that is of concern in Asia, is spread and what the risks are to Americans.
Currently, that Asian strain is not present in Hawaii or North America, said Dr. Linda Rosen, deputy director for health resources for the state Department of Health.
For that reason, wild birds found at bird feeders here would not be carriers, she said.
In fact, "there has never been a documented case of a person becoming infected by contact with a wild bird," Rosen said.
Most or all of the human cases in Asia resulted from very close contact with infected poultry. Recent human cases of the H5N1 infection in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam have coincided with large H5N1 outbreaks in poultry, Rosen said.
Meanwhile, while it is possible, it is "highly improbable" that the virus would be spread via debris on golf clubs, according to Health Department spokesman Bryan Cheplic.
People who have come down with the bird flu are those who have directly handled infected poultry.
"It is true that one of the ways a person can become infected is from exposure to surfaces contaminated with infected poultry feces," Cheplic said.
"However, this would mean that a person golfing in Asia would have to share a course with an infected bird (a chicken or some type of fowl), the bird would then have to excrete its infected feces on the golf club, the feces would then have to dry and become pulverized, and then be inhaled or ingested by said person or golfer."
The likelihood of those series of events occurring is possible but, again, slim at best, he said.
We asked Cheplic if there was a Web site that had basic questions and answers on the avian flu, and he noted the following: www.who.int/en -- World Health Organization; www.cdc.gov -- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and www.hawaii.gov/health -- state Department of Health.
It wasn't raining when I went into Foodland
at Market City the day before Thanksgiving. But, as I was ready to leave, it was pouring rain. The lady behind the counter said that someone with an umbrella could walk me to my car. Mahalo to Foodland for such a great service. -- Helene Webster
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