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Avian Influenza Current Situation

Situation by Type and Location

  • Avian influenza A viruses have been isolated around the world from more than 100 different species of wild birds. The majority of the viruses isolated have been low pathogenic avian influenza A viruses, although highly pathogenic* avian influenza A viruses are occasionally detected.
  • Aquatic birds including gulls, terns, and shorebirds, and waterfowl such as ducks, geese and swans are considered reservoirs (hosts) for avian influenza A viruses.
  • See World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Avian Influenza Portal and the World Animal Health Information Database (WAHID) for more information.

United States

  • In December 2014 and January 2015, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) reported the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N2 and HPAI H5N8 viruses in wild birds in a few states. The reports are a result of increased outreach, reporting and surveillance activities following the detection of HPAI H5N2 among commercial flocks in Canada reported in early December 2014.
  • In January 2015, an HPAI* H5N1 virus was detected in a wild duck in the United States. The H5N1 virus isolated from a U.S. wild bird is a new mixed virus (a reassortant) that is genetically different from the Asian avian H5N1 viruses that have caused human infections with high mortality in several other countries (notably in Asia and Africa). No human infections with this new reassortant H5N1 virus have been reported.
  • CDC considers the risk to people from these HPAI infections in wild birds to be low, but has developed interim guidance on testing and prophylaxis.
  • No human infections with these viruses have been detected at this time. However, similar viruses have infected people in the past. It’s possible that human infections with these viruses may occur.
  • As a general precaution, people should avoid wild birds and observe them only from a distance; avoid contact with domestic birds (poultry) that appear ill or have died; and avoid contact with surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces from wild or domestic birds. People in contact with known infected or possibly infected birds should take precautions to protect against infection.
  • At this time, CDC is coordinating with state health departments on appropriate human health measures and is working with animal health colleagues to minimize public health risk.
  • The U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are the lead federal agencies for outbreak investigation and control in wild birds and the USDA is the lead agency for such activities in domestic birds.
  • Around the world, avian influenza A outbreaks occur among poultry from time to time.
  • Since December 2003, an Asian HPAI H5N1 virus has resulted in high mortality in poultry and wild birds in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Africa.
  • Asian HPAI H5N1 virus infections among domestic poultry have become common (endemic) in certain countries of the world.
  • As of 2011, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization considered six countries to be endemic for Asian HPAI H5N1 virus in poultry (Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, and Vietnam).

United States

  • Low pathogenic avian influenza A outbreaks occur among poultry from time to time in North America.
  • Beginning in 2015, HPAI H5 viruses have been detected in some U.S. commercial poultry flocks. The latest information on avian influenza findings is available on USDA’s website.
  • CDC is monitoring this situation and continues to work with public and animal health partners to minimize the risk to human health.
  • CDC considers the risk to people from these HPAI infections in poultry to be low, but has developed interim guidance on testing and prophylaxis.
  • No human infections with these viruses have been detected at this time. However, similar viruses have infected people in the past. It’s possible that human infections with these viruses may occur.
  • As a general precaution, people should avoid wild birds and observe them only from a distance; avoid contact with domestic birds (poultry) that appear ill or have died; and avoid contact with surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces from wild or domestic birds. People in contact with known infected or possibly infected birds should take precautions to protect against infection.
  • Between 1997 and 2014, based on the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) reporting criteria for avian influenza in commercial poultry, the United States experienced one outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza A (H5N2) virus in poultry that was restricted to one poultry farm.
  • The Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the lead federal agency for outbreak and investigation control in domestic birds in the United States. For more information, visit the USDA ARS and APHIS web sites.
  • Avian influenza viruses do not normally infect humans, but human cases have occurred.
  • Illnesses in humans from avian influenza virus infections have ranged in severity from mild to severe.
  • Human infections with avian influenza viruses have most often occurred after contact with infected birds or their secretions or excretions.
  • Three prominent subtypes of avian influenza A viruses are known to infect people (H5, H7 and H9 viruses).

Avian influenza A H5 viruses

  • Sporadic H5 virus infection of humans, such as with Asian highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A (H5N1) viruses currently circulating among poultry in Asia and the Middle East have been reported in 16 countries, often resulting in severe pneumonia with approximately 60% mortality worldwide. (The H5N1 virus isolated from a U.S. wild bird is a new mixed virus (a reassortant) that is genetically different from the Asian avian H5N1 viruses that have caused human infections with high mortality in several other countries (notably in Asia and Africa). No human infections with this new reassortant H5N1 virus have been reported, but CDC has developed interim guidance on testing and prophylaxis.)
  • Visit the WHO web site to view the latest monthly report of the cumulative number of confirmed human cases of infection with HPAI H5N1 viruses reported to World Health Organization.
  • On January 8, 2014, the first case of a human infection with H5N1 in the Americas was reported in Canada in a traveler returning from China.

Avian influenza A H7 viruses

Avian influenza A H9 viruses

  • Rare, sporadic H9N2 virus infections of humans have been reported. Infection generally causes mild upper respiratory tract illness.
Around birds
  • As a general precaution, people should avoid wild birds and observe them only from a distance
  • Avoid contact with domestic birds (poultry) that appear ill or have died
  • Avoid contact with surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces from wild or domestic birds

What to do if you find a dead bird
State and local agencies have different policies for collecting and testing birds, so check with your state health department, state veterinary diagnostic laboratory, or state wildlife agency for information about reporting dead birds in your area. Wildlife agencies routinely investigate sick or dead bird events if large numbers are impacted. This type of reporting could help with the early detection of illnesses like West Nile virus or avian influenza. If local authorities tell you to simply dispose of the bird’s carcass (body), don’t handle it with your bare hands. Use gloves or an inverted plastic bag to place the carcass in a garbage bag, which can then be disposed of in your regular trash.

To report unusual signs in birds you have seen in the wild, call 1-866-4-USDA-WS (1-866-4-8732-97).

Preparing food
  • The U.S. poultry industry maintains rigorous health and safety standards, including routine monitoring for avian influenza.
  • It is safe to eat properly handled and cooked poultry in the United States.
  • However, consumers are reminded to handle raw poultry hygienically and cook all poultry and poultry products (including eggs) thoroughly before eating.
  • Raw poultry can be associated with many infections, including salmonella.
  • While there is no evidence that any human cases of avian influenza have ever been acquired by eating properly cooked poultry products, uncooked poultry and poultry products (like blood) have been linked to human infections with organisms other than influenza. Proper cooking kills influenza viruses. Visit the USDA food safety website at USDA - Food Safety Education for instructions on handling poultry safely.
Traveling to other countries
  • Currently, CDC does not recommend any travel restrictions to any of the countries affected by avian influenza viruses in poultry or people.
  • CDC does recommend that travelers to countries with avian influenza A outbreaks in poultry or people observe the following:
    • Avoid visiting poultry farms, bird markets and other places where live poultry are raised, kept, or sold.
    • Avoid preparing or eating raw or undercooked poultry products.
    • Practice hygiene and cleanliness.
    • See a doctor if you become sick during or after travel.
  • See CDC Travelers’ Health for more information on avian influenza.
If you've had direct contact with infected birds
  • People who have had direct contact with infected bird(s) should be watched to see if they become ill. They may be given influenza antiviral drugs to prevent illness.
  • While antiviral drugs are most often used to treat flu, they also can be used to prevent infection in someone who has been exposed to influenza viruses. When used to prevent seasonal influenza antiviral drugs are 70% to 90% effective.
  • Close contacts (family members, etc.) of people who have been exposed to avian influenza viruses are being asked to monitor their health and report any flu-like symptoms.
If you’re a clinician, laboratorian or public health worker

See Avian Influenza: Information for Health Professionals and Laboratorians for the latest guidance.

Footnotes

*Avian influenza A viruses are designated as highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) or low pathogenicity avian influenza (LPAI) based on molecular characteristics of the virus and the ability of the virus to cause disease and mortality in chickens in a laboratory setting.

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