What is Bird Flu and can I Catch It? - PIH Health

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Published on May 07, 2015

What is Bird Flu and Can You Catch It?

Bird Flu

Bird FluBird flu, or avian influenza, is a viral infection usually spread from bird to bird. There are numerous strains of the avian flu - over 25 subtypes have been identified. Only one of those is considered contagious to humans: the H5N1 virus. This strain of the virus is the most serious and can be fatal to both birds and people.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the H5N1 strain of avian flu has been identified in Europe and Asia and is shed in the feces of wild, migratory species of birds, such as ducks and geese. The most common way the virus is spread is through fecal to oral transmission. However, it's important to note that H5N1 is able to live on inanimate (non-living) objects such as bird feeders, baths and houses.

The most notable carriers of bird flu viruses are wild ducks. It’s suspected that infection can spread from wild birds to domestic birds.

H5N1 bird flu does not spread easily from person to person, because people typically catch bird flu by close contact with birds or bird droppings. Some people have even caught H5N1 from cleaning or plucking infected birds. There have been a few cases where one infected person caught the bird flu virus from another person, but only after close personal contact.

It is important to note people do not catch the virus from eating fully cooked chicken or eggs.

How to Protect Your Pet Bird

  • Don’t allow your bird to have contact with wild birds
  • Don’t allow your bird outside without the safety of its cage
  • Keep wild animals and wild birds away from your birds cage

If you have recently purchased a bird that you suspect could have been caught in the wild, it’s recommended to schedule an appointment with an avian veterinarian who can test for diseases such as avian flu and, if necessary, offer treatment.

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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