Protecting Yourself and Others from Avian Influenza

Agricultural Disaster Preparedness and Recovery September 30, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

Bird market. Open bird market.

Avian influenza (AI) infections are currently rare in humans, but a mutation of the virus could result in more human cases. The first line of defense against avian influenza is to avoid unnecessary contact with live poultry or wild birds. The best way to protect yourself from all flu viruses is to practice good hygiene and sanitation.

  • Wash your hands after contact with animals.
  • Avoid contact with animals that appear to be sick. If you must handle sick or dead birds, wear gloves and avoid contact with droppings. Do not touch your mouth, nose, or eyes with your hands until they have been washed.
  • Owners of domestic livestock, including poultry and waterfowl, should contact their local veterinarian if any of their animals appear sick.
  • Thoroughly cook eggs and meat prior to eating; poultry should reach an internal temperature of 165° F. Wash all utensils and preparation areas thoroughly with soap and hot water to prevent cross contamination to other foods. Wash your hands frequently when preparing food.
  • Hunters should hunt and process only healthy animals and should wear gloves when handling any animal.
  • Get a seasonal flu vaccine. While the seasonal flu will not prevent AI infections, it will help prevent mutant variants of the virus from forming. If two different subtypes infect the same host they could combine to produce a more infectious strain. Seasonal flu vaccines are inexpensive and offered at many local clinics and pharmacies from October to April.

Travel Precautions

While HPAI H5N1 has not been found in the United States, it has been reported in more than 50 different counties. Travel to H5N1 infected countries is not discouraged; however, there are precautions that should be taken.

  • Check for recent outbreaks of avian influenza in your country of travel.
  • Be sure you are up-to-date with all your routine vaccinations, including a seasonal influenza vaccine. Get any travel-related vaccines that your doctor recommends for you.
  • Avoid all direct contact with birds and surfaces that have bird droppings on them, including poultry farms and bird markets.
  • Eat only bird products that have been thoroughly cooked. Do not consume runny eggs, undercooked poultry, or poultry blood.
  • Wash your hands often with soap or waterless alcohol-based hand gels (containing at least 60% alcohol).
  • If you become sick with a fever plus a cough and sore throat, or have trouble breathing, seek medical care right away. Tell the doctor if you have had contact with sick or dead birds. Avoid any further travel, unless it is to a medical facility.
  • Once home, closely monitor your health for 7 days. If you develop a fever plus a cough, sore throat, or have trouble breathing during this period, see a doctor. Tell the doctor:
    • Your symptoms
    • Where you traveled
    • If you had direct contact with birds or a very sick person

For more information on protecting yourself and others visit CDC's Avian Flu Q&A or CDC Travel .



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.