Bird flu (or “avian influenza”) is a disease that is fatal to many birds but rarely affects people. Bird flu is not the same as pandemic flu in humans. Outbreaks of bird flu typically present very little threat to humans. Some people around the world have contracted bird flu after being in close contact with diseased birds, or bird droppings. To date, the number of such cases is very, very small and most people never contract flu from birds.
Flu viruses can change (mutate) over time. If bird flu virus should ever change into a strain of flu that is very contagious for humans, and a large number of humans becomes infected, that is called pandemic flu. But currently, the bird flu virus has not changed. There is no evidence any bird flu strain anywhere in the world has changed to make it dangerous to people.
In a normal year, there are many flu (influenza) strains moving around in our world. Some exist in birds only, some exist in pigs only, and others affect only people. The strain of bird flu that recently has infected many birds, including chickens and ducks, is called H5N1.
Scientists are concerned that some day the bird flu could change into a strain of flu that is highly contagious for humans and since we do not have a natural immunity to bird flu, it could cause severe illness and death in many people. Many health officials hold the view that there is a good chance bird flu could some day change into a strain of flu that would be dangerous to humans.
For more information about bird flu, visit:
Bird Flu Outbreaks in Poultry and Other Animals
Outbreak coverage and data.
Bird Flu Outbreaks in Humans
Number of cases and deaths by year and by country.
Surveillance Guidelines for Avian Influenza A (H5N1)
Surveillance criteria and testing information.
Infection Control Precautions for Avian Influenza A (H5N1)
Respiratory and Cough Hygiene etiquette.
Testing for Avian Influenza A (H5N1)
Specimen requirements and other diagnostic testing information.
Additional Avian Influenza A (H5N1) Information
Links to clinical information and reports.