Avian influenza

Level 1 - Practise health precautions (more details)

Original publication date: January 17, 2019

Updated: December 20, 2023

Current situation

Sporadic human cases of avian influenza have been reported worldwide, the majority of which have been reported from China.

The risk to travellers is low.

About avian influenza

Avian influenza is a contagious viral infection that mainly affects birds but can sometimes infect humans and other mammals. Although some birds may get sick and die, other birds can be infected and still appear healthy. There are many types of avian influenza, which are all caused by various strains of type A influenza virus (e.g. A(H5N1), A(H7N3), A(H9N2)).

Illnesses in humans from avian influenza Virus infections have ranged in severity from no symptoms to severe and fatal disease. Some of these viruses, such as A(H5N1) and A(H7N9), have caused serious illness in humans.

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

  • close contact with infected birds and/or visits to live bird/animal markets or poultry farms
  • close contact with objects that have been contaminated with the virus (handling infecte 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.

The symptoms for avian influenza are initially similar to seasonal influenza (flu):

  • cough
  • shortness of breath
  • fever, greater than 38 °C (100.4 °F)
  • aching muscles
  • headache

Other early symptoms, mainly related to H5N1, may include:

  • diarrhea
  • runny nose
  • sore throat
  • fatigue
  • conjunctivitis (red eyes)
  • bleeding gums

Antiviral medications can be used to treat avian influenza. It is important that antiviral medications be taken as early as possible, ideally within 48 hours of getting sick.


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 bird/animal markets, and areas where poultry may be slaughtered.
  • avoid contact with wild, farm, and backyard birds (alive or dead), including chickens, turkeys, and domestic ducks
  • avoid surfaces that may have bird droppings on them.
  • Ensure that all poultry dishes, including eggs, are thoroughly cooked.

Wash your hands often:

  • Wash your hands with soap under unning 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, call a health care professional as soon as possible. When 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 bird/animal market) or had close contact with a sick per

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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