Prevention and Treatment of Avian Influenza A Viruses in People
The Best Prevention is to Avoid Sources of Exposure
Currently, the best way to prevent infection with avian influenza A viruses is to avoid sources of exposure whenever possible. Most human infections with avian influenza A viruses have occurred following direct close or prolonged contact with sick or dead infected poultry. Infected birds shed avian influenza virus in their saliva, mucous and feces. Human infections with bird flu viruses can happen when enough virus gets into a person's eyes, nose or mouth, or is inhaled. This can happen when virus is in the air (in droplets or possibly dust) and a person breathes it in, or when a person touches something that has virus on it then touches their mouth, eyes or nose. Rare human infections with some avian viruses have occurred most often after unprotected contact with infected birds or surfaces contaminated with avian influenza viruses. However, some infections have been identified where direct contact was not known to have occurred.
People who work with poultry or who respond to avian influenza outbreaks are advised to follow recommended biosecurity and infection control practices; these include use of appropriate personal protective equipment and careful attention to hand hygiene. In addition, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) poultry outbreak responders should adhere to guidance from CDC and World Health Organization (WHO) and receive seasonal influenza vaccination annually and take prophylactic antiviral medication during response. They should also be monitored for illness during and after responding to HPAI outbreaks among poultry. Responders to low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) outbreaks should also consider this guidance as part of their response plan. Seasonal influenza vaccination will not prevent infection with avian influenza A viruses, but can reduce the risk of co-infection with human and avian influenza A viruses.
Antiviral Drugs Can Be Used to Treat Illness
CDC currently recommends oseltamivir, peramivir, or zanamivir for treatment of human infection with avian influenza A viruses. Analyses of available avian influenza viruses circulating worldwide suggest that most viruses are susceptible to oseltamivir, peramivir, and zanamivir. However, some evidence of antiviral resistance has been reported in HPAI Asian H5N1 viruses and influenza A H7N9 viruses isolated from some human cases. Monitoring for antiviral resistance among avian influenza A viruses is crucial and ongoing. These data directly inform CDC and WHO antiviral treatment recommendations.
CDC has posted interim guidance for clinicians and public health professionals in the United States regarding follow-up and influenza antiviral chemoprophylaxis of persons exposed to birds infected with avian influenza A viruses.
U.S. Government Stockpiling H5N1 Vaccine If Needed
The United States federal government maintains a stockpile of H5N1 vaccine. The stockpiled vaccine could be used if a H5N1 virus begins transmitting easily from person to person. Creating a candidate vaccine virus is the first step in producing a vaccine. See “Making a Candidate Vaccine Virus (CVV) for a Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) Virus” for more information on this process.Top of Page
- Page last reviewed: December 16, 2015
- Page last updated: December 16, 2015
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