Avian Influenza

(Bird Flu, H5N1 Infection)

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Avian influenza is a strain of influenza virus that primarily infects birds. It is often called the bird flu. In Asia and Africa, there have been cases of avian influenza that have the ability to infect humans. The most significant of these avian influenza strains is called H5N1. This strain can cause serious illness and death.
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Avian influenza is caused by a specific influenza type A virus. The virus is common among wild and domestic birds, but rarely infects humans. Occasionally, the virus can mutate which allows it to infect humans. The virus is passed through contact with an infected bird’s:
  • Saliva or blood
  • Nasal secretions
  • Droppings
Avian influenza is not contracted through eating well-cooked poultry or eggs. The virus rarely passes from one human to another. When it does, it is usually a weakened version of the virus. Infections are being monitored to see if the virus mutates in a way that allows it to easily pass between humans.

Risk Factors

Close contact with infected poultry increases your chance of avian influenza. This may include domestic or wild ducks, geese, chickens, or turkeys. Your chance of infection is also increased with recent travel to an area known to have avian influenza. Avian influenza outbreaks are most common in Asia, the Middle East, and northeast Africa.


Symptoms of avian influenza may include: More severe infections can lead to pneumonia or serious organ failure.

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