Avian Flu (Bird Flu)

What is avian flu (bird flu)?

Avian influenza, also called bird flu, is caused by a virus that usually infects wild and domestic birds. Wild birds that carry bird flu viruses include migratory waterbirds, like ducks, geese and swans, and shorebirds, like storks. Bird flu viruses can easily spread from wild birds to domestic poultry, like chickens, turkeys, geese, and pheasants. The virus is found in an infected bird’s feces (poop) and fluids from the bird’s eyes, nose, or mouth.


Bird flu viruses don’t usually infect people. However, this can happen if you:

  • Touch your eyes, nose, or mouth after handling infected live or dead birds.
  • Touch surfaces or handle items contaminated by bird flu viruses and touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Breathe in droplets or dust contaminated with the virus.

People who get sick with bird flu can have no symptoms to severe illness. Some people have mild symptoms, including eye redness (conjunctivitis), cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and tiredness. More serious symptoms include high fever, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing. People with severe disease can develop pneumonia that may require hospitalization. Less common signs and symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, or seizures.

Information by Destination
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Where are you going?

Can travelers get bird flu?

Most travelers are unlikely to get bird flu. However, travelers who work with animals, such as veterinarians, farmers, animal industry experts, and wildlife professionals, or people who visit poultry farms or live-animal markets may be at higher risk.

What can travelers do to prevent bird flu?

Do not touch birds and avoid visiting places where birds live

  • Avoid visiting poultry farms, live animal markets, and other places where live poultry are raised, kept, slaughtered, or sold. If you must visit such places, wear a well-fitting facemask and avoid touching poultry or other birds.
  • If you visit wetlands or other outdoor places where birds live, make sure you take steps to avoid germs during and after your visit.
  • Avoid touching sick or dead wild birds or poultry.

Avoid Germs

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after having contact with or being around birds or places where birds are kept or touching uncooked poultry.
  • If soap and water aren’t available, clean hands with hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. If you need to touch your face, make sure your hands are clean.
  • Avoid close contact, such as kissing, hugging, or sharing eating utensils or cups with people who are sick.

After Travel


If you traveled and feel sick, particularly if you have a fever, talk to a healthcare provider and tell them about your travel. Avoid contact with other people while you are sick.

If you need medical care abroad, see Getting Health Care During Travel.


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