Ten Facts About Avian Flu

A summary of the top ten things you need to know about avian influenza.

1. Avian flu viruses have circulated in birds worldwide for thousands of years or more, and most pose no threat to birds or humans.

2. Avian flu causes fewer deaths by far than other kinds of flu. In the United States alone, about 36,000 people die from complications of seasonal flu each year. As of October 2012, 332 people worldwide have died from the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu virus, and none in the United States.

chickens closeup3. Nearly all cases of human illness from the H5N1 virus have been associated with close contact with diseased poultry or poultry products.

4. It is safe to feed wild birds, watch birds, and monitor nest boxes.

5. The highly pathogenic H5N1 virus is not easily transmitted from person to person. It is possible that the virus could mutate to more dangerous forms but no one knows when, if at all, this will occur. 
6. The only documented cases of humans becoming infected with the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus from wild birds are in Azerbaijan. Seven people came down with disease after defeathering swans, four or whom later died.

7. Outbreaks of the H5N1 virus have been found more often among domestic poultry than among wild birds.

8. Some 200 million domestic chickens, turkeys, geese, and ducks have died from H5N1 infections or have been culled to prevent the spread of disease.
9. The highly pathogenic H5N1 virus has been detected in 45 wild bird species. Most noted outbreaks have been among waterfowl and, to a lesser extent, shorebirds and gulls.

10. Wild birds are capable of carrying the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus with them when they migrate, but in most cases so far the virus appears to have spread to new locations through the transportation of infected poultry and poultry products.