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Ask Dr. Extreme

Q: I'm going to Laos for a trip down the Mekong. Should I
let bird flu alter my plans?

Find out the answer and send in your own question

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Q+A: Ask Dr. Extreme
Get travel-health and trip advice from an expedition M.D.

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Q:  I'm going to Laos for a trip down the Mekong. Should I let bird flu alter my plans?

Ask Dr. Extreme: Send your
travel-health questions to
They could be answered in the magazine.

A:  Asia travel remains low risk—for now. As of late 2005, avian flu was transmitted only through direct contact with birds, such as touching their secretions or inhaling their feces.

So unless you're practicing animal husbandry on the river, flu risk is minimal. In fact, not one of the 130 flu cases reported at press time involved a tourist.

However, if the virus finds a way to jump between people, says John Treanor, infectious disease expert at the University of Rochester, all travel plans are vulnerable. "To prevent a pandemic, international flights may be grounded," he says. Travelers everywhere may be sprayed and delayed with some bonus R&R.

To Stay Safe:
+ Keep away from open markets and farms, even those that inspectors have ordered free of fowl. As I learned on a trip to Thailand, poultry is sometimes hidden from the authorities.

+ Order your food well cooked.

+ Wash your hands frequently with soap or use an alcohol gel.

Ken Kamler, M.D., is the author of Surviving the Extremes (Penguin Group USA).

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Pick up the February 2006 issue for 36 amazing Hawaiian adventures, the most spectacular treks in Australia, 11 weekend escapes near you, and more.

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