Avian Influenza, commonly called Bird Flu, is not the same thing as pandemic flu. Pandemic flu would make lots of people sick all over the world. It would spread easily from one person to another. Bird flu does not do that. Bird flu would have to change form to become pandemic flu.
Influenza A (H7N9) is one of a subgroup of influenza viruses that normally circulate among birds. Until recently, this virus had not been seen in people. However, human infections have now been detected. As yet, there is limited information about the scope of the disease the virus causes and about the source of exposure. The disease is of concern because most patients have been severely ill. There is no indication thus far that it can be transmitted between people, but both animal-to-human and human-to-human routes of transmission are being actively investigated.
Source: World Health Organization
Frequently Asked Questions
What is bird flu?
Bird flu is the common name for avian influenza. It is a disease of birds that is mostly found in wild birds. Sometimes bird flu can spread from wild birds to domestic poultry. There are many strains or types of bird flu virus.
Do birds in the U.S. or Canada have the H7N9 virus?
No. This type of bird flu has not been found in North America. Other strains of bird flu are commonly found in wild waterfowl here, but usually affect small numbers of birds and usually do not cause obvious illness in birds. These other types of bird flu are not considered to be a risk to human health.
What kinds of birds carry the bird flu virus?
Wild birds around the world carry bird flu viruses in their intestines, but in most cases do not get sick from it. Most bird flu viruses have been found in wild waterfowl (ducks, geese and swans) and wading birds, gulls and terns.
How does bird flu spread among birds?
Infected birds shed the virus in their saliva, nasal discharges and droppings. Other birds can get the bird flu when they have close contact with infected birds. Birds can also get bird flu from contact with surfaces (such as dirt or cages) or materials (such as water or feed) that have been contaminated with the bird flu virus.
Can people get bird flu?
Bird flu is hard for people to catch. Most of the people who had in the past become sick with bird flu came into close contact with sick chickens or ducks and touched them with bare hands.
Is it okay to feed wild birds?
There is no reason to stop feeding birds at this time.
People can also get other illnesses, such as salmonella, from birds and their droppings. For this reason, people should not handle wild birds and should always wash their hands with soap and hot water after handling bird feeders.
Should I feed ducks, geese and other waterfowl?
No. It's best to enjoy wildlife from a distance.
There are many reasons not to feed waterfowl.
- Unlike backyard birds, waterfowl are more likely to be infected once there is bird flu in the area.
- It increases the chance of spreading other diseases that are common among waterfowl.
- It makes them tame, and can cause them to become a nuisance.
- It causes them to lose their natural behaviors.
Should hunters take special precautions?
Even apparently healthy wild birds can have diseases, such as salmonella. The Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife endorses these practical precautions for hunters:
- Do not handle or butcher game animals that are obviously sick or dead.
- Wear rubber gloves and washable clothing when cleaning game.
- Wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol wipes right after handling game.
- Wash tools and working surfaces with soap and hot water.
- Disinfect with a 10% solution of chlorine bleach.
- Cook meat thoroughly to an internal temperature of 165º.
If I find a dead bird, should I report it?
At this time there is no need to report or test dead wild birds
Can my pets get vaccinated against bird flu?
No. There is no vaccine to protect pets or humans from bird flu at this time.
What can I do to protect my pets from bird flu?
Do not let pets run free outside where they could be exposed to or eat the remains of sick or dead wildlife. Many diseases can cause wild birds and other animals to get sick and die, and some diseases could be spread to pets that run free.
Can my pet be tested for bird flu?
No. Routine testing of pets for bird flu is not necessary and not available right now. If you have concerns about your pet’s health, it is best to contact a veterinarian.
How do I know that animals from a pet store are healthy?
It’s always best to make sure that an animal has been checked by a veterinarian before you make the purchase.
We have a small flock of chickens. Is it safe to keep them?
Yes. In Vermont, there is no need to remove a flock of chickens because of concerns about bird flu.
Can I get bird flu from my neighbor’s poultry and farm animals?
No. At this time there is no bird flu in North America.
If the situation changes, Vermonters will be notified about precautions to take.
Is it safe for my child to hatch eggs and raise chicks?
Yes. At this time there is no bird flu in North America. However, chicks can carry other diseases such as salmonella. Projects involving hatching eggs and raising chicks should minimize hand contact and require thorough hand washing if contact does occur.
Young children are especially at risk for illness because their immune systems are still developing and they are more likely to put their fingers or other items into their mouths.
Is it safe to eat chicken, turkey, duck and eggs?
Yes. There is no evidence that properly cooked poultry or eggs can be a source of infection for bird flu. Because other common diseases such as salmonella infection can be spread by eating undercooked poultry or eggs:
- Wash hands with soap and hot water after touching any raw meat.
- Clean cutting boards and counters used for food preparation right after use.
- Cook eggs and meat thoroughly. (Cook meat to an internal temperature of 165º).