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Avian Influenza

Avian influenza, commonly called “bird flu”, is an infection caused by type A influenza viruses that normally only infect birds.  The pathogenicity or ability of avian influenza viruses to cause disease in domestic poultry (chickens, ducks, and turkeys) tends to vary with the makeup or subtype of the virus.  Subtypes that are classified as “low pathogenic” cause no noticeable disease or only very mild symptoms of illness in birds, such as ruffled feathers and a drop in egg production.  Low pathogenic bird flu viruses are widely distributed in wild birds all over the world and do not pose a significant animal or public health threat.  

“Highly pathogenic” avian influenza A viruses cause very severe disease, spread rapidly through a flock, and kill a high proportion of affected birds.  Presently, only H5 and H7 subtypes are associated with severe disease outbreaks in birds.  Highly pathogenic bird flu is very rare in the United States.

Public health, agriculture, and wildlife officials have been closely monitoring the progression of the outbreaks of the highly pathogenic avian influenza A H5N1 occurring throughout Asia, Europe, the Near East, and Africa and influenza A H7N9 occurring in China. 

For more in-depth information on “bird flu”, click here or go to the links for national and international resources providing current updates on avian influenza in birds and humans.  For information on pandemic influenza, please visit our pandemic influenza page.

Avian Influenza Fact Sheets and Information:

Avian Influenza Fact Sheet (102k pdf)

 Avian Influenza Hoja Informativa - Espanol (123k pdf)

External Avian Influenza Resources:
National Wildlife Health Center (USGS)

Avian Influenza (USDA)

World Organization for Animal Health Influenza (OIE)

Avian Influenza (WHO)

Avian Influenza (CDC)


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