Avian Influenza or Bird Flu

This page contains information about Avian Influenza, also known as bird flu.

Page last updated: 12 April 2013

For information on the current situation, view the Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) outbreak in China - (H7N9) web page.

What is Bird Flu?

Bird flu (also known as avian influenza) is caused by an influenza virus that affects birds. To date bird flu has mostly affected water birds and domestic poultry. While there are many strains of bird flu the one currently causing worldwide concern is H5N1.

H5N1 in Humans

Although the H5N1 virus can cause severe and fatal infections in humans, the actual number of human cases around the world has been small relative to the number of outbreaks in birds. Almost all human cases have had close contact with infected poultry, usually from their own flocks.

There has been no evidence that the H5N1 virus has changed into a form that can pass efficiently from human to human. This is a crucial change that would be required before H5N1 could start a new human influenza pandemic.

The Australian Government is closely monitoring the situation in countries affected by H5N1 bird flu and is maintaining close contact with international organisations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

WHO updates

The most up-to-date information on confirmed human cases of H5N1 infection is reported by the WHO and can be found at: WHO avian influenza.

H5N1 in birds

Australia

The Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry monitors avian influenza outbreaks in birds, and continues to report that there is no evidence of H5N1 bird flu in Australia. Avian influenza updates from the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) can be found at the DAFF avian influenza website.

Resources for the poultry industry

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) have an avian influenza website which provides specific information for the poultry industry and bird owners.

All suspected outbreaks of avian influenza in Australia should be reported to the DAFF Animal Outbreak Hotline: 1800 675 888.

Protecting Poultry Workers during Avian Influenza Outbreaks

The Communicable Diseases Network Australia has developed the guidelines for persons working with poultry and other birds at risk of highly pathogenic avian influenza (CDNA, 2008) and associated workplace posters which provide specific information to protect poultry workers during an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza.

World Wide

Global updates on H5N1 outbreaks in birds can be found at the OIE website. A full list of the countries that have confirmed H5N1 Avian Influenza in birds can be found at: OIE AI Facts.

Travel information

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are not currently advising against travel to any of the countries affected by avian influenza. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Smartraveller website contains a range of international travel-related advisories and bulletins. This includes a Health: Avian Influenza Travel Bulletin prepared in collaboration with the Department of Health and Ageing.

Although the risk of infection to travellers to areas affected by avian influenza is currently considered low, Australians travelling to areas affected by avian influenza can reduce their risk of infection by:
  • Avoiding situations where they may come into contact with farms and live bird markets.
  • Ensuring all uncooked poultry and eggs are handled hygienically, with careful attention to hand washing after handling, and then cooked thoroughly. Proper cooking destroys the virus in poultry and eggs.

Further information

Further information about Avian Influenza and Pandemic Influenza can be obtained through the Department of Health and Ageing’s pandemic website.

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