Bird flu protection could be as simple as bowing instead of shaking hands.
Japan never suffered an outbreak of SARS despite being surrounded by countries where outbreaks occurred.
The most likely reason is that viruses like SARS and the bird flu are most commonly passed through hand to hand contact and in Japan it's more common to bow than shake hands.
Hand hygiene is also promoted heavily in kindergarten and schools across Japan.
This combination of excellent hygiene and a lack of formal hand to hand contact could be huge factors in Japan's avoiding the SARS outbreak and may hold one key secret to slowing a bird flu pandemic.
What most people don't realize is that over 90% of respiratory viruses like the bird flu, the common cold and influenza get into your body through contact between your fingernails and the mucous membranes of your eyes and nose.
They literally hitchhike into your body and you're giving them an easy ride.
If the bird flu mutates into a human to human virus and becomes a pandemic health authorities predict it will kill somewhere between 200,000 and 150 million people.
The bird flu is particularly dangerous because it can readily kill the young and healthy reminiscent of the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 whose main victims were aged 20 to 40.
We're unprepared for a bird flu pandemic.
Bird flu protection through vaccination is impractical.
First you can't begin to produce a vaccine until the virus mutates and then it's difficult to produce enough bird flu vaccine to provide bird flu protection to large population.
Worse still a "bird flu shot" may not even be effective bird flu protection against a rapidly mutating avian influenza virus.
Looking for a pharmaceutical first line of bird flu protection may be worthwhile but Cavanagh says early efforts so far seem bewildering.
The new breed of anti-viral drugs can help fight viruses like the bird flu.
The US government is stockpiling tamiflu as basic bird flu protection against bird flu in the United States yet the bird flu virus is showing a high level of resistance to tamiflu in China.
Relenza, another anti-viral drug seems to be more effective against the bird flu but again we have to wait till the bird flu virus mutates to see if any drug can provide effective bird flu protection.
That leaves us with the most sensible, simple bird flu protection which is simply washing your hands.
If you can stop avian influenza from entering your body through contact between your fingernails and your eyes or nose your chances of contracting the bird flu virus will drop dramatically.
And if everyone practiced excellent hand washing perhaps this could be as effective a responseĀ against a world wide bird flu pandemic as it was for Japan against SARS.
But hand washing as bird flu protection is not quite as simple as it might appear.
You need to use the right soap to wash your hands and anti-bacterial soap is NOT recommended.
Other hygiene techniques like nasal irrigation might also improve a natural bird flu protection strategy...
By Andrew Cavanagh
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