Avian Flu : Symptoms, Prevention, Causes and Treatment


Rarely does the influenza virus that causes bird flu to infect humans. The two strains of avian flu that have most recently infected humans, H5N1 and H7N9, have been discovered among more than a dozen people. Humans are susceptible to avian flu, which can be fatal.

The majority of individuals who have shown signs of the bird flu have been in close proximity to ill birds. There have been instances where people have contracted bird flu from one another. Since 2015, only occasional human instances have been documented.

Health officials are concerned that a global outbreak could happen if the bird flu virus mutates into a more contagious form.


Domestic poultry such as chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese are susceptible to the bird flu, which often affects wild waterfowl. Contact with an infected bird's excrement or secretions from its mouth, nose, or eyes can spread the illness.

Open-air markets, where eggs and birds are sold in crowded, unhygienic settings, are breeding grounds for the illness and can spread it across the neighbourhood.

Bird flu can be spread through raw chicken meat or eggs from sick birds. If poultry meat has reached an internal temperature of 165 F, it is safe to consume. The yolks and whites of eggs should be cooked until they are set.

How to check if you have Avian Flu?

If you get a fever, cough, or body pains and have recently visited an area of the world where bird flu is prevalent, visit your doctor as soon as possible. If you visited any farms or outdoor markets, inform your doctor right away.

Risk Factors

Contact with ill birds or surfaces contaminated by their feathers, saliva, or droppings appears to be the main risk factor for bird flu. Human transmission patterns are still unknown. Only a few human-to-human transmissions of avian flu have occurred. Infected birds still pose the most threat, unless the virus starts to spread more quickly among humans.


Symptoms and indicators of avian flu may occur two to seven days after infection, depending on the strain. They frequently have traits in common with conventional influenza, like:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Throat pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Breathing difficulty

Additionally, some people get sick, throw up, or have diarrhoea. And occasionally, the sole symptom of the illness is a minor eye infection (conjunctivitis).


Flu shot for birds

One H5N1 bird flu vaccine has been authorised by the Food and Drug Administration to protect against illness. Although this vaccine is not accessible to the general population,  governments have it in reserve and will give it out in the case of an outbreak.

This vaccine might be administered early in an outbreak to offer a minimal level of protection until a different vaccine has been developed and produced to provide protection against the particular type of virus causing the outbreak. Researchers say that more bird flu vaccines are still being developed.

Traveller recommendations

Take into account these travel health advice if you're going to Southeast Asia or any other area where bird flu epidemics are occurring:

  • Do not use tamed birds. Avoid if at all possible small farms, rural areas, and outdoor marketplaces.
  • Sanitise your hands. This is among the easiest and most effective methods for avoiding any disease. When travelling, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that has at least 60% alcohol.
  • Get a flu vaccination by asking. Consult your doctor about getting a flu vaccination before leaving. Although it won't provide you with specialised bird flu protection, it might help lower your chance of contracting both the human and bird flu viruses at the same time.


A class of antiviral medications, which includes the medications amantadine and rimantadine, has shown a rise in the resistance of several influenza viruses (Flumadine). Health experts advise using zanamivir. These medications must be consumed two days after the onset of symptoms.

People should generally avoid coming into direct touch with wild birds and only observe them from a distance. Even if they do not appear ill, wild birds can carry avian (bird) influenza (flu) A viruses.

Keep your distance from domestic birds (poultry) that appear sick or are deceased. Avoid touching anything that might be covered in feces, mucus, or saliva from wild or domestic birds.

People who fall ill within 10 days of coming into contact with sick birds should stay home alone and away from other family members. They should also avoid going to work or school until they have shown they are not infected with the bird flu virus and have recovered from their sickness. Notifying the local or state health department is advisable since they can help with monitoring and provide guidance when isolation is no longer necessary.

Within 10 days of the exposure, close contacts (family members, etc.) of those who have been exposed to bird flu viruses should monitor their health and notify their doctor of any new symptoms, particularly respiratory symptoms.

Try to avoid the following places:

  • If at all possible, avoid going to poultry farms, bird markets, or other locations that raise, keep, or sell live fowl.
  • Wash your hands after handling uncooked poultry and avoid consuming raw or undercooked poultry items.
  • Maintain a clean and hygienic environment.
  • If you become ill while travelling or right after, see a doctor.

Complications of Avian Flu

Those who have bird flu may develop severe issues like:

  • Pneumonia
  • Red-eye (conjunctivitis)
  • Respiration difficulty
  • A kidney problem
  • Heart issues

As very few people have had bird flu, even though it may kill more than half of those it infects, the number of fatalities is still modest. Since 1997, the World Health Organization has received reports of less than 500 bird flu fatalities.


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Page last reviewed: Mar 6, 2023

Next review due: Mar 6, 2025

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