Avian Influenza Risks for Growers and Poultry Workers

Agricultural Disaster Preparedness and Recovery July 09, 2012 Print Friendly and PDF
Collecting a swab sample

Avian influenza is a viral disease that can cause illness and death among poultry. On rare occasions, avian influenza has been transmitted to poultry workers or others who come in contact with infected poultry or contaminated surfaces. Workers at risk include poultry growers and their employees; service technicians of poultry processing companies; caretakers, layer barn workers, and chick movers at egg production facilities; and workers involved in disease control and eradication activities, including state, federal, contract, and company employees.

In 2008, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) released the “Protecting Poultry Workers from Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)” alert which reviews the precautionary steps poultry workers should take before and during an outbreak of avian influenza.

Steps BEFORE an outbreak of avian influenza:

  • Make sure that an avian influenza response plan has been developed to complement regional, state, and industry plans.
  • Follow biosecurity practices to keep avian influenza and other diseases out of your poultry flock. See Biosecurity for Birds.
  • Know the signs of avian influenza in poultry.
  • Report sick or dying birds immediately to local or state veterinarian!
  • Know the possible signs and symptoms of avian influenza in humans infected with the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus.
  • Consider getting the current season’s flu shot.

Steps DURING an outbreak of avian influenza:

  • Follow the avian influenza response plan.
USDA
  • Ask your doctor about taking antiviral medication.
  • Get the current flu vaccine. Although the vaccine will not prevent avian influenza infection it may help prevent mutations of the virus.
  • Wear personal protective clothing, including gloves. Do not touch your face with contaminated gloves.
  • Wear eye protection.
  • Wear respirators.
  • Follow a written respiratory protection program to ensure that respirators adequately protect workers from avian influenza.
  • When removing personal protective equipment use caution to prevent recontamination.
  • Use good hand hygiene (proper use of gloves, hand-washing, and waterless hand sanitizers).
  • Shower at the end of the work shift and leave all contaminated clothing and equipment at work.
  • Participate in health surveillance and monitoring programs. Workers should be evaluated for signs of infection 10 days after an exposure to infected birds and materials.


For a printable version of these procedures visit the Summary of Worker Recommendations.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has also published a safety and health information bulletin on “Avian Influenza Protecting Poultry Workers at Risk.” This site provides detailed information on recommended steps and equipment.


Avian Influenza Homepage

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.