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Human Infection with Avian Influenza A (H5N1) Virus: Advice for Travelers

Current Situation

Highly pathogenic avian influenza A (H5N1) virus (also called “H5N1,” “bird flu,” or “avian flu”)* has caused serious disease in poultry and wild birds on multiple continents. Humans rarely get sick with bird flu, but since 2003, more than 560 people in 15 countries in parts of Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East have become ill, and about 60% of these people have died. You can find the most up-to-date information by using the links below:

Most people have become infected with bird flu through direct contact or close exposure to sick or dead poultry. Direct contact could happen during activities such as―

  • Visiting live bird or poultry markets
  • Preparing or eating uncooked or undercooked bird products (such as meat, eggs, or blood)

A few people have become infected through close, prolonged contact with another person who is very sick with bird flu, but this is extremely rare.  The H5N1 virus is not circulating among people. CDC expects that outbreaks of bird flu will continue among poultry in Asia and the Middle East. Because of this, people who have direct contact with infected birds may occasionally get bird flu.

Advice for Travelers

At this time, CDC is not recommending that the general public avoid travel to any of the countries where there is bird flu in poultry or other birds. If you are planning travel to one of these areas, follow these steps to reduce your risk of getting sick:

Before Your Trip

  • Visit CDC's Travelers’ Health Website to learn about any disease risks and health recommendations for areas you plan to visit.
  • See a travel medicine specialist or a doctor familiar with travel medicine at least 4–6 weeks before you leave to answer your questions and make specific recommendations for you.
  • Be sure you are up-to-date with all your routine vaccinations, including a seasonal flu vaccine. Although seasonal flu vaccine will not protect you from bird flu, it will protect you from seasonal flu, which is much more common worldwide than bird flu. In addition, get any travel-related vaccines that your doctor recommends for you.
  • Pack a travel health kit that contains basic first aid and medical supplies. See the Pack Smart page for suggested items.
  • Before you leave, know where health care resources are located in your destination. For more information, visit Doctors/Hospitals Abroad from the US Department of State.
  • Learn more about preparing for your trip at Your Survival Guide to Safe and Healthy Travel.

During your visit to an area affected by bird flu

Be careful with birds:

  • Avoid all direct contact with birds, including poultry (such as chickens and ducks) and wild birds.
  • Avoid touching surfaces that have bird droppings (feces) or other bird fluids on them.
  • Avoid places such as poultry farms and bird markets where live birds are raised or kept.
  • Eat only bird meat or products that have been thoroughly cooked.
    • Egg yolks should not be runny or liquid.
    • Do not eat dishes that contain uncooked (raw) or undercooked bird meat or products (such as eggs and poultry blood).
    • Because flu viruses are destroyed by heat, the cooking temperature for bird meat should be 165°F (74°C).

Practice healthy habits to help stop the spread of germs:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and clean water. This removes germs from your skin and helps prevent diseases from spreading.
    • Use waterless alcohol-based hand gels (containing at least 60% alcohol) when soap and clean water are not available and hands are not visibly dirty.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and put your used tissue in a waste basket.
  • If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands.
  • Wash your hands after coughing or sneezing.
  • Follow all local health recommendations. For example, you may be asked to put on a surgical mask to protect others.
  • Avoid people who are sick with fever and respiratory symptoms such as coughing. 

Seek medical care if you feel sick:

  • If you become sick with a fever plus a cough and sore throat or have trouble breathing, seek medical care right away. Tell the doctor if you have had contact with sick or dead birds.
  • If you need to find local medical care, a US consular officer can help you locate medical services and will inform your family or friends in the United States of your illness. To contact the US embassy or consulate in the country where you are visiting:
  • See the information on the page “Know What To Do if You Become Sick or Injured on Your Trip” to help you. You should avoid further travel until you are free of symptoms, unless you are traveling locally for medical care.

A note about health screening:

Some countries monitor the health of people arriving from areas affected by bird flu, usually in airports. You may be asked to fill out a questionnaire or have your temperature taken.

After your return from an area affected by bird flu

  • Closely monitor your health for 7 days.
  • If you become sick with a fever plus a cough, sore throat, or have trouble breathing during this 7-day period, see a doctor. When you make the appointment, tell the doctor the following—
    1. your symptoms,
    2. where you traveled, and
    3. if you have had direct contact with birds or close contact with a very sick person.
  • Do not travel when you are sick, unless you are traveling locally to get medical care. By limiting contact with others as much as possible, you can help prevent others from getting sick.

Additional Information:

*All uses of “bird flu” on this page refer to avian influenza A (H5N1). There are other types of bird flu, but these are not known to infect humans.

 
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    1600 Clifton Rd
    Atlanta, GA 30333
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  • Contact CDC-INFO
USA.gov: The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
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