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Military officials are warning troops in Iraq — and those deploying there soon — to take preventive measures against the avian flu following confirmation of two civilian deaths from the virus.

There have been no “known or reported cases” of the H5N1 strain of the virus, also called bird flu, in the U.S. military to date, the warning reads. But, “defensive measures should be implemented and publicized.”

While the warning is aimed at troops in Iraq, the measures “are also appropriate for military family members and civilians who work for the military in areas where bird flu is occurring.”

Bird flu cases have been found throughout Asia and Europe, and on Thursday, eight farms in Canada were quarantined after the first reports of cases in North America.

Troops in Iraq are being given several specific guidelines, including to avoid eating local poultry products. The two fatal cases in northern Iraq were traced to infected poultry flocks in the region. Among the prevention measures:

“If you have influenzalike symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat and muscle aches) or an eye infection, difficulty breathing, especially after being in contact with potentially infected poultry, seek medical care as soon as possible.”

“Insist that soldiers who are sick get medical assistance. Stay away from others who are sick, but make sure they get care.”

“If you have sleeping cots set up in a tent or building, sleep in a foot-to-head pattern and have maximum possible distance between cots.

“Do not handle sick or dead birds of any kind. … You should not eat poultry originating in Iraq, but if you do, make sure it is thoroughly cooked. Avoid contact with birds of any kind, especially live poultry.”

The actions are being taken under the Army’s Acute Respiratory Disease Surveillance Program. More information can be found at www.chppm.com.

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