There has been much media attention to avian influenza ("bird flu") in recent years. Currently, the avian influenza virus has only been transmitted from bird-to-human; it has not yet been passed from human-to-human. The possibility does exist for this virus to mutate and for human-to-human transmission to occur. Most humans have no immunity against this strain of flu virus. Therefore, if human-to-human transmission occurs, the potential for a pandemic will exist.
Federal, state, and local public health are working to make sure that proper precautions are taken in the event of pandemic influenza. They are stockpiling flu antiviral and working with hospitals to ensure that everyone will receive the appropriate medical care in the event of an outbreak.
How is avian influenza transmitted?
Infected birds transmit the flu virus in their secretions such as saliva, nasal secretions, and feces. Birds become infected when they come in contact with any of these contaminated secretions. Bird flu in humans is transmitted from contact with infected birds and contaminated services. There is no evidence that suggests bird flu can be contracted through eating poultry and eggs. However, to ensure your safety, cook chicken and eggs at temperatures above 160 degrees Fahrenheit and thoroughly wash all utensils, counter tops, hands, etc. that come in contact with these raw foods.
What are the symptoms of avian influenza?
Symptoms may include the following:
- Flu-like symptoms (fever, muscle aches, sore throat, etc.)
- Eye infections
- Severe respiratory diseases
How can you protect yourself against avian influenza?
The best defense against avian influenza or influenza in general is to eliminate or avoid germs you may come in contact with.
- Wash your hands often, using hot water and soap for 20-30 seconds
- Use an alcohol based hand sanitizer
- Cover your cough and sneezes
- When you are sick, stay at home!
What is the risk of contracting avian flu?
So, far, the virus has not been found in the United States. Most cases have occurred in Asia and Europe. There is no way of knowing if and when avian flu will occur in the United States.
Additional information on avian influenza can be found at the following websites:
- Department of Health and Human Services
- Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- Backyard Biosecurity - How to Protect Your Birds
- Stop Germs, Stay Healthy! Poster
- The differences between HPAI vs LPAI