Avian influenza (bird flu) is a disease caused by avian influenza Type A viruses that naturally occur in wild aquatic birds throughout the world. This virus can also infect other species of birds, and occasionally mammals, and can cause significant mortality in poultry species such as chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, ducks, geese, and guinea fowl. On rare occasions bird flu viruses infect people and make them sick.
This typically has only happened to people who have had close contact with avian influenza-infected birds. On April 28, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that a person in Colorado, who had direct exposure to poultry and was involved in the culling (depopulating) of poultry with presumptive H5N1 bird flu, tested positive for avian influenza. No other cases have been detected in the US with currently circulating H5N1 strains.
Public health officials are working closely with local, state, and federal partners to monitor bird flu in Washington.
- No humans with highly pathogenic avian influenza have been identified in Washington.
- Although highly pathogenic avian influenza is a highly contagious disease among birds and can cause significant mortality among poultry, the risk of it spreading to people is very low.
- The H5N1 virus currently circulating among birds in the US is genetically very different than the H5N1 virus that has been circulating in the past. It is not an immediate concern for human health. There have been no detections of HPAI in Washington state.
- As a precautionary measure, people with known contact with avian influenza infected birds are being contacted by public health officials to monitor for the development of symptoms and initiate testing, if indicated.
- Chicken, eggs and other poultry and poultry products are safe to eat when properly handled and cooked. Be sure to follow these steps for safer food:
- Wash hands and clean and sanitize work surfaces and equipment.
- Do not wash poultry.
- Separate raw and cooked meat to avoid cross-contamination.
- Cook poultry thoroughly to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Keep poultry stored at 40 F or below or, in the freezer at 0 F or below.
- Although avian (bird) influenza (flu) A viruses usually do not infect people, there have been some rare cases of human infection with strains of these viruses other than the currently circulating H5N1 strain. Illness in humans from bird flu virus infections have ranged in severity from no symptoms or mild illness to severe disease that resulted in death.
- The CDC has guidance for specific groups of people with exposure to poultry, including poultry workers and people responding to poultry outbreaks.
- On April 28, 2022, the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment announced and CDC confirmed that a person in Colorado tested positive for avian influenza.
- This case occurred in a person who had direct exposure to poultry and was involved in the culling (depopulating) of poultry with presumptive H5N1 bird flu.
- The patient reported fatigue for a few days as their only symptom and has since recovered.
- The patient is being isolated and treated with the influenza antiviral drug oseltamivir.
- While it is possible the detection of H5 bird flu in this specimen is a result of surface contamination of the nasal membrane, that can’t be determined at this point and the positive test result meets the criteria for an H5 case.
- No other cases have been detected in the US.
- This case does not change the human risk assessment for the public, which CDC considers to be low. However, people who have job-related or recreational exposures to infected birds are at higher risk of infection and should take appropriate precautions outlined in Information on Bird Flu | Avian Influenza (Flu) (cdc.gov).
- Bird testing and monitoring by the Washington State Departments of Agriculture and Fish and Wildlife are underway statewide. Avian Influenza | Washington State Department of Agriculture
- The US Department of Agriculture has an online list of bird flu detections. USDA APHIS|2022 Detections of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza.
- What you can do:
- Report sick/dead domestic birds to Washington State Department of Agriculture’s public phone line: 1-800-606-3056.
- Report online sick/dead wild birds suspected of avian flu to Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife.
- Bird hunters should follow standard safety steps to avoid potential exposure to avian influenza and other viruses or bacteria.
- Call the Washington State Department of Health for questions about your own health: 1-800-525-0127
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