Are we entering a danger period for bird flu? Some authorities think so. The weather's still cold, and the influenza viruses love the cold. Flocks - wild and domestic - are still getting infected through-out Asia and now in Europe. But what adds to that danger is that people have been on the move, particularly in China, as they head to family reunions. Three years ago, a Hong Kong family who returned to China for Lunar New Year was infected with avian influenza. Sadly, their young daughter died while still in China. Luckily, when the family returned to Hong Kong and the father and son became ill, the infection was identified as H5N1 avian influenza and didn't spread. But each year, the medical experts ask: Will this be the year it makes the jump? Although avian flu may seem like a frightening thing that's out of control, there's a lot we can do to make sure this isn't the year it transforms itself into a human pandemic influenza. First, know what the risks are and whether the infection is active in the place you're visiting. So far, human cases have been reported in six countries: Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam. The last has the most, mainly because it's been reporting cases since the end of 2003. The number of human cases is climbing, with 19 reported so far - 16 of which have been fatal. The mainland took a long time to recognise its first human cases, but has now reported cases from seven provinces. Take the same precautions as you did with Sars: meticulously wash your hands and never touch your mouth, eyes or nose with unwashed hands. If you eat poultry in any affected country, make sure it's thoroughly cooked (no pink meat anywhere). What happens if you contract avian influenza overseas? How can you tell that you really have it? You can't, but what you can do is get suspicious symptoms checked. In Hong Kong, there are laboratories that identify the avian flu virus in humans. Symptoms are high fever - higher than 38 degrees centigrade - which seems to come on a little later than for human flu. With avian flu, symptoms come on as late as seven days after contact with infected birds. It has also been as long as 17 days after contact. Other symptoms include a cough, a crackling sound when breathing in, watery diarrhoea, coughing up blood-stained sputum and breathing difficulties. The best advice is to take sensible precautions - and check any possible symptoms early.