Avian influenza

Level 1 - Practise health precautions (more details)

Original publication date: January 17, 2019

Updated: January 6, 2023

Current situation

Sporadic human cases of avian influenza have been reported in China.

Avian influenza cases generally follow a seasonal pattern. While the number of avian influenza cases tends to peak between December and January, recently human infections with some influenza types (e.g., influenza A (H5N6)) have seen increases in the summer months.

The risk to travellers is low.

About 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. There are four subtypes of avian influenza A viruses that are known to infect people (H5, H7,H9, and H10 viruses). Among these, H5N1 and H7N9 have caused the majority of infections in people.

Illnesses in humans from avian influenza A virus infections have ranged in severity from no symptoms to severe and fatal disease.

Although rare, avian influenza can be spread to humans through:

• close contact with infected birds and/or visits to live bird markets
• close contact with objects that have been contaminated with the virus (handling infected poultry, contact with infected bird droppings)
• person to person contact (very rare)

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that the likelihood of sustained human-to-human transmission of these viruses remains low.


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

During your trip:

• Avoid high-risk areas such as poultry farms, live animal markets, and areas where poultry may be slaughtered. Be alert to the presence of backyard poultry when visiting friends and relatives.
• Avoid contact with birds (alive or dead), including chickens, ducks and wild birds.
• Avoid surfaces with bird droppings or secretions on them.
• Make sure that all poultry dishes, including eggs, are well cooked.

Wash your hands often:

• Wash your hands with soap under warm running water for at least 20 seconds.
• Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. It’s a good idea to always keep some with you when you travel.

Practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette:

• 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.

Monitor your health:

If you develop symptoms of avian influenza when you are travelling or after you return, see a health care professional. Before you make an appointment, tell them:

• your symptoms
• where you have been travelling or living
• if you have had direct contact with birds (for example, visited a live poultry market) or close contact with a sick person

The health care professional may provide you with additional guidance to follow during your appointment. Wear a mask if fever or respiratory symptoms develop.

Registration of Canadians Abroad

Sign up with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service to stay connected with the Government of Canada in case of an emergency abroad or an emergency at home.

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