The Travel Health and Vaccine Specialists

Avian influenza

Released: January 28, 2019

Current situation

Sporadic human cases of avian influenza have been reported in China.

Avian influenza cases generally follow a seasonal pattern. Most cases are reported in the colder months (between October and May), with numbers peaking between December and early January.

The risk to travellers is extremely low.

About avian influenza

Avian influenza is a viral infection caused by influenza A viruses that can spread easily and quickly among birds. There are several types of avian influenza viruses, and most rarely infect humans. There are three subtypes of avian influenza A viruses that are known to infect people (H5, H7 and H9 viruses). Among these, H5N1 and H7N9 have caused the majority of infections in people.

Illnesses in humans from avian influenza A virus infections have ranged in severity from no symptoms to severe and fatal disease.

Although rare, avian influenza can be spread to humans through:

  • close contact with infected birds and/or visits to live bird markets
  • close contact with objects that have been contaminated with the virus (handling infected poultry, contact with infected bird droppings)
  • person to person contact (very rare)


Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.

During your trip:

  • Avoid high-risk areas such as poultry farms, live animal markets, and areas where poultry may be slaughtered.
  • Avoid contact with birds (alive or dead), including chickens, ducks and wild birds.
  • Avoid surfaces with bird droppings or secretions on them.
  • Make sure that all poultry dishes, including eggs, are well cooked.

Wash your hands often:

  • Wash your hands with soap under warm running water for at least 20 seconds
  • Keep alcohol-based hand sanitizer and use it for washing, if soap and water are not available. 

Practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette:

  • Cover your mouth and nose with your arm to reduce the spread of germs.
  • If you use a tissue, dispose of it as soon as possible and wash your hands afterwards.

Monitor your health:

If you develop symptoms of avian influenza when you are travelling or after you return, see a health care professional. Tell them:

  • your symptoms
  • where you have been travelling or living
  • if you have had direct contact with birds (for example, visited a live poultry market) or close contact with a sick person

Registration of Canadians Abroad

Sign up with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service to stay connected with the Government of Canada in case of an emergency abroad or an emergency at home.Related links

Other Resources

Report a problem or mistake on this pageShare this pageDate modified: 2017-04-05