Avian influenza is called “bird flu,” because it naturally occurs in birds. Viruses that cause this do not usually infect humans and other animals, but a growing number of cases have occurred between 1997 and now. There is great concern about outbreaks of “bird flu,” because they could lead to widespread infection in humans.

Signs & Symptoms

The viruses cause no or only mild symptoms in wild birds. Certain strains of “bird flu” can cause widespread disease and death in some kinds of wild birds, chickens, and turkeys.

Symptoms in Humans

  1. Fever.

  2. Cough.

  3. Sore throat.

  4. Muscle aches.

  5. Eye infections.

  6. Pneumonia. Severe problems breathing.

  7. Other serious problems that can threaten life.


Types of a certain virus cause “bird flu.” Infected birds shed the virus in saliva, nasal secretions, and feces. Contact with infected birds or contaminated surfaces can spread the virus to humans. “Bird flu” viruses may be able to change and infect humans directly. This means that the virus could easily pass from one human to another. If this happens, an “influenza pandemic” could occur.



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

800.CDC.INFO (232.4636)


World Health Organization (WHO)


Questions to Ask

Self-Care / Prevention

  1. Before you travel, check the Web sites listed below for current facts on “bird flu.” If you will be going to a known site, avoid contact with items and surfaces that may have droppings from an infected bird.

  2. If you have symptoms of a respiratory infection, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Wash your hands often.

Common Health Problems  »  Respiratory Conditions

When outbreaks occur, sick and exposed animals are killed. This keeps the virus from spreading. Persons who have or might have “bird flu” are isolated. Certain antiviral medicines are given. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) track and address outbreaks.

Do you have symptoms of “bird flu” listed above and have you gone to a place with an outbreak of “bird flu” or been in close contact with someone who has?