Protection from Avian Influenza

Avian influenza, more commonly known as bird flu, is an illness that primarily infects birds but can potentially infect people. The latest strain influenza A (H5N1) is widespread in wild birds worldwide and has caused illness in U.S. poultry and dairy cows with cases of H5N1 appearing in U.S. poultry and dairy workers.

Workers who have job-related contact with birds or dairy cows infected with the H5N1 virus are at risk of becoming infected with bird flu. This includes workers at bird rehabilitation centers, employees of bird and animal sanctuaries, poultry farm or dairy farm workers, slaughterhouse workers, laboratories that test samples for the H5N1 virus, and responders to detections of H5N1 in poultry and dairy operations.

What is Avian Influenza?

Avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu, is a disease caused by infection with avian (bird) influenza (flu) Type A viruses. These viruses naturally spread among wild aquatic birds (like geese and ducks) worldwide and can also infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species, including cows.

Bird flu is contagious, affecting both domestic and wild birds. While it primarily spreads among birds, there have been sporadic human infections, although these are rare.

Symptoms of human infections can include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Muscle aches
  • Sore throat
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
  • Pink eye (conjunctivitis)

What work activities increase the risk of exposure to Avian Influenza?

People who work with poultry, waterfowl (like geese and ducks), and livestock are most at risk. Employees can become infected through the following ways:

  • The employee inhales the particles containing the avian flu virus from the air.
  • An infectious particle directly contacts the mucous membranes of the employee’s eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • The employee touches a surface contaminated with the virus and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth.

Employees may become infected with avian influenza when conducting various tasks:

  • Handling sick animals.
  • Handling or otherwise being exposed to animals that are infected but not showing symptoms.
  • Contact with animal wastes (feces) or secretions (milk)
  • Collecting dead animals for disposal or other purposes.
  • Handling or otherwise being exposed to animal wastes, including litter, that may contain infectious pathogens.

June 2024