Avian influenza

Avian influenza virus, its symptoms, prevention, risks and recommendations for travellers.

On this page

Symptoms of avian influenza

People usually develop symptoms of avian influenza 1 to 5 days after exposure, though it's sometimes longer. Early symptoms of most strains are similar to seasonal flu.

They include:

Other early symptoms associated with the H5N1 strain include:

Some people infected with avian influenza don’t develop any symptoms.

Depending on the strain, avian influenza can make you seriously ill.

These strains include:

Avian influenza can progress rapidly, leading to:

In severe cases, it can lead to multi-organ failure, including kidney and liver dysfunction and heart failure. This can lead to death.

The mortality rate for avian influenza infections is often much higher than seasonal flu infections. It can be higher than 50%.

If you become ill

If you develop symptoms of avian influenza, call a health care provider.

When you make an appointment, tell them:

The health care provider may provide you with additional guidance to follow during your appointment.

Wear a mask if fever or respiratory symptoms develop.

Treating avian influenza

You can treat avian influenza with antiviral medications. It’s important to take them as early as possible, ideally within 48 hours of getting sick.

They can:

If you have a severe infection, you need to go to the hospital.

How avian influenza spreads

Birds spread avian influenza viruses through their feces, mucus and saliva.

Most human infections occur after close contact with infected birds or highly contaminated environments, such as:

Avian influenza virus can be:

You can become infected if:

Avian influenza viruses can spread easily between birds, but they don’t spread easily to mammals, including humans. There have been rare reports of mammal-to-human transmission of some strains of avian influenza. There have also been some reports of possible limited human-to-human transmission in some parts of the world, but there’s no evidence of ongoing transmission between people.

Avian influenza doesn't spread through eating thoroughly cooked poultry, game meat or eggs.

Safe cooking temperatures

Preventing avian influenza

Getting the seasonal flu vaccine can reduce the chance of getting sick with both human and avian influenza viruses. However, it doesn’t prevent avian influenza.

There are steps you can take to reduce your risk of exposure.

Make sure to avoid:

Make sure to thoroughly cook all poultry dishes, including eggs.

Meat, poultry, fish and seafood safety

Wash your hands with soap under running water for at least 20 seconds regularly and frequently. You can also use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available. Always keep some with you when you travel.

Hand washing and staying healthy

Cover your mouth and nose with your arm to reduce the spread of germs. If you use a tissue, dispose of it as soon as possible and wash your hands afterwards.

Who is most at risk

Avian influenza is a concern in many countries. The risk of infection for most travellers who have limited contact with infected animals is low.

Travellers at highest risk are those who will be:

Recommendations for travellers

Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably 6 weeks before you travel to get personalized health advice and recommendations.

Before travelling, check all travel advice and advisories for your destination.

Travel advice and advisories

For health care professionals

Avian influenza is a contagious viral infection. It mainly affects birds but can sometimes infect humans and other mammals.

Illness is caused by infection with influenza type A viruses, which are further classified into subtypes, such as:

Some of these virus subtypes, such as H5N1 and H7N9, have caused serious illness in humans.

Wild birds throughout the world are natural carriers of certain avian influenza viruses. These viruses can infect domestic poultry, often causing the birds to die and potentially leading to widespread outbreaks.

Avian influenza has been reported in many countries around the world. Outbreaks in birds and other animals have occurred in parts of:

Reports on avian influenza in birds and other animals:

Reports on cases of avian influenza in humans:

Related links

For health professionals

Date modified: