Prevention and Treatment of Avian Influenza A Viruses in People

Protective actions 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

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. 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. Additionally, CDC recommends that people responding to poultry outbreaks should get a seasonal influenza vaccination every year, preferably at least two weeks before engaging in an outbreak response. 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. These people should also be monitored for illness during and after responding to avian influenza outbreaks among poultry.

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 EducationExternal 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.
    • Visit a doctor if you become sick during or after travel.
  • 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. Avian Influenza: Information for Health Professionals and Laboratorians for the latest guidance.

If you’re a clinician, laboratorian or public health worker

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