Disease Control & PreventionL
Influenza (flu)
Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)  

Avian influenza is an infection caused by avian (bird) influenza (flu) viruses. These influenza viruses occur naturally among birds. Wild birds worldwide carry the viruses in their intestines, but usually do not get sick from them. However, avian influenza is very contagious among birds and can make some domesticated birds, including chickens, ducks, and turkeys, very sick and kill them.

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About Avian Flu

Do we have Avian Influenza (AI) in the US?

We have never had an outbreak of Asian-type H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza in the United States, and we do not have any cases now. We had low-pathogenic avian influenza as recently as 2004. The H5N2 outbreak in one flock was designated as highly pathogenic on the basis of a laboratory test, but a more definitive test failed to confirm high pathogenicity. The last confirmed outbreak of H5N2 (not H5N1) highly pathogenic avian influenza in the United States was in Pennsylvania in 1983 and 1984. No known human illness or infections resulted from the outbreak.

Why is it necessary to kill all the birds in an affected flock?

Like all other living things, viruses continue to change and evolve. It is possible that the viruses that cause mild avian influenza could evolve into a more pathogenic form. This is apparently what happened in Pennsylvania in 1983 and 1984, when a low-pathogenic strain turned into a highly pathogenic strain. Flocks are destroyed to prevent the virus from evolving and spreading.

What is done to protect people in the case of an AI outbreak in a flock?

The people involved in destroying flocks wear gloves, masks and protective clothing. Anyone who develops respiratory symptoms reports to a doctor to be checked out. People who have no reason to be on a farm involved in the outbreak are kept away.

Is it safe to eat chickens, other fowl and eggs?

Yes, eating properly cooked poultry, as well as eggs, is safe. The U.S. government has banned imported poultry from countries affected by bird flu. At the present time, H5N1 avian flu is not present in the U.S.

For protection against many types of food borne diseases, such as Salmonella, all poultry should be cooked to 165º F or hotter. Cooking also destroys flu viruses.

Why is the "Bird Flu" in Asia such a big deal?

New human influenza viruses arise from bird influenza viruses that then change to a form that can infect humans and spread easily from person to person. The current bird flu outbreak in Asia is caused by a type of influenza A virus in birds called “H5N1.” The H5N1 avian influenza outbreak among domestic chickens and ducks in Asia is widespread and uncontrolled. Human infections and deaths due to the avian H5N1 virus have occurred, although the virus has at this time not developed the ability to pass easily from person to person and cause outbreaks in humans.

What will my symptoms be if I have "Bird Flu"?

The reported symptoms of bird flu in humans have ranged from typical influenza-like symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, sore throat, and muscle aches) to eye infections (conjunctivitis), pneumonia, acute respiratory distress, viral pneumonia, and other severe and life-threatening complications.

If I think I have the flu, should I be tested for Bird Flu?

Only if you have a recently returned from travel to an area where bird flu is present. Depending on your symptoms, dates of travel, and activities, additional testing might be recommended. Let you healthcare provider know about your travel history and if you had contact with poultry or bird markets.

We see a lot of ducks and geese in the parks, are we at risk?

It is not a good idea to feed wandering geese and ducks or having them in contact with your household chickens or fowl. Avian influenza is present in the droppings of migratory birds, along with hundreds of other disease causing germs. It is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after playing at a park, and before eating.

I live near a chicken farm or have farmers spreading chicken manure next door, am I safe?

This does not present a risk. At the present time, the H5N1 strain of bird flu that has spread through poultry farms in southeast Asia and into eastern Europe is not present in the U.S. Transmission from birds to people require close contact with birds, such as handling, butchering or exposure to a lot of bird droppings. Animals that die of diseases have to be disposed of properly.

I have a bird feeder and a bird bath in my yard. Is that safe?

Maintaining a clean bird feeder or birdbath is generally safe, unless these are attracting rodents or raccoons. It is always best to wear protective gloves when handling or cleaning these items to avoid contact with bird droppings or contaminated water in a birdbath. Always wash your hands with soap and water after doing these chores.

Is Avian Flu a risk for pet birds kept indoors?

The likelihood of getting a pet bird that is already infected with avian flu is very low. It is illegal in the U.S. to import pet birds from regions that are infected with bird flu. In addition, if you’re concerned and already own a pet bird, keep it inside to avoid exposure to wild or migratory birds.

If you are buying a new bird, especially of an exotic variety, be sure it has been legally imported. Smuggled birds from affected areas could possibly be infected with the bird flu virus. Information about federal embargoes on bird importation can be found at www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/outbreaks/embargo.htm

Can my other pets get Bird Flu?

There is no evidence that bird flu is a risk to dogs. There is evidence from the Asian outbreak that the bird flu virus might affect cats fed raw poultry, but there is currently no cause for concern because the virus is not present in the U.S.

Who's monitoring for Bird Flu in the poultry industry?

The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) currently has two programs designed to monitor for bird flu. They are testing samples of fresh eggs grown in the state for antibodies to the virus. They also have a program in conjunction with the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory that tests domestic poultry for bird flu virus. Persons owning poultry that died of an unknown cause can inquire about bird flu testing by calling the WSDA at 360-902-1881 or 360-902-1878.

Who's monitoring for Bird Flu in wild birds?

Several agencies are conducting surveillance for bird flu among wild birds, especially migratory waterfowl. Surveillance is being strengthened in certain parts of the country such as Alaska because it is believed that migratory birds like ducks and geese could carry bird flu there from Asia and Russia.

A fact sheet about the ecology of bird flu (avian influenza) viruses in wild bird populations can be found at the National Wildlife Health Center’s website at:

What do I do if I find a dead bird?

You may dispose of the dead bird by double bagging in plastic bags and discarding in your household garbage. Use gloves or a shovel to avoid touching the bird or any other dead animal with your bare hands.

I have a small flock of chickens in my backyard. Are there any special precautions I should take to keep them from getting bird flu?

You should practice good sanitation and preventive measures, such as reducing exposure to wild birds, to guard against a variety of diseases. Excellent information on “backyard biosecurity for the birds” is available. For more information, see Avian Influenza (Al) - USDA Site

If birds in your flock die unexpectedly, you can report this to the Washington State Department of Agriculture at 360-902-1881 or 360-902-1878; testing for bird flu may be recommended as part of the state’s monitoring program.

What You Should Know?

The information below is provided by the CDC

Specific Topics

The information below is provided by the CDC

Information for Specific Groups

The information below is provided by the CDC

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    Marianne Remy



This page last updated: 01/28/22