Avian influenza

What is avian influenza?

Avian influenza is a viral infection caused by influenza A viruses that can spread easily and quickly among birds. There are several types of avian influenza viruses, and most rarely infect humans. However, some of these viruses, such as H5N1 and H7N9, have caused serious illness in humans.

What is my risk? 

The risk for most travellers is low. The risk increases if travelling to a destination that is experiencing an outbreak from a serious influenza strain.

How is it transmitted?   

Although rare, certain strains of avian influenza can be transmitted to humans, mainly through contact with infected birds or objects that have been contaminated with the virus (for example, handling infected poultry or contact with infected bird droppings).

What are the symptoms?

Can avian influenza be treated?

Antiviral drugs may be able to reduce the severity and length of illness, if taken early enough.

Where is avian influenza a concern?

Since 2003, confirmed locally-acquired human cases of avian influenza H5N1 have been reported in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Egypt, Indonesia, and Vietnam have reported the highest number of H5N1 cases to date.

Locally-acquired human cases of avian influenza H7N9 have been reported in China since 2013.

Other avian influenza viruses have resulted in occasional human infections, including the H9N2 and H5N6 viruses.

For more information, the World Health Organization (WHO) posts monthly updates on avian influenza.


Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic preferably 6 weeks before you travel.

1. Minimize your risk of being exposed to avian influenza:

2. Wash your hands frequently:

3. Practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette:

4. Monitor your health:

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