Avian Influenza H5N1 (Bird Flu) Virus

February 18, 2022

Background

Avian influenza viruses usually infect birds, but rare cases of human infection with these viruses have been reported. Humans that get avian influenza usually have come in direct contact with infected birds, birds that have died from avian influenza, or bird droppings from infected birds. "Bird flu" typically refers to an influenza A virus type called H5N1.

There are two types of influenza A H5N1: highly pathogenic and low pathogenic. The H5N1 strain commonly called "bird flu" is the highly pathogenic type. This virus strain typically infects wild waterfowl, such as ducks. Birds infected with highly pathogenic H5N1 virus can experience very mild to very severe symptoms, including death. Rarely, domestic birds, such as chickens, also get infected with "bird flu" H5N1. In poultry, it causes severe illness and death. In rare instances, the "bird flu" virus can be transmitted to humans primarily through direct exposure to infected birds or the environment where the infected birds live. When people get infected with "bird flu" virus, it can cause severe illness and death. Currently, avian influenza H5N1 does not pass easily between people. For more information about “bird flu” in humans, please visit the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/avianflu/avian-in-humans.htm.

It is also important to remember that HPAI is purely a production and economic situation for our poultry industry. It is safe to consume properly handled and cooked poultry products, including meat and eggs.

Current Global Situation as of February 2022

There is ongoing surveillance throughout the US and the world to look for "bird flu" in migratory waterfowl. In the US, the US Department of Agriculture, US Department of the Interior and the US Department of Health and Human Services work together on this surveillance. The highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 strain has been identified in the United States. More information on surveillance and positive results in both domestic and wild birds can be found on the USDA website: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/animal-disease-information/avian/avian-influenza  

The Georgia Department of Public Health works closely with partners at the Georgia Department of Agriculture on all animal and human-related public health concerns. For human health inquiries, please call 866-PUB-HLTH (782-4584). For inquiries related to avian influenza and animal health, please see the Georgia Department of Agriculture website.

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