The Travel Health and Vaccine Specialists

Back to Vaccinations

Disease Directory

Avian Flu (Bird Flu)

What is avian flu (bird flu)?
Avian flu (sometimes called bird flu) is a respiratory disease that usually infects birds, not people. There are different types of avian flu, such as H5N1 and H7N9. People rarely get bird flu, but when they do it usually happens after contact with infected birds (such as chickens, turkeys, geese, pigeons, and pheasants). Human illness from avian flu has ranged from mild eye infections and flu-like symptoms to pneumonia and death.

Who is at risk?
The risk of bird flu to travelers is extremely low. People who come in contact with live poultry may be at higher risk. H5N1 bird flu is widespread in poultry and wild birds in several countries in Asia and the Middle East. Outbreaks with H5N1 bird flu also have been reported in Europe and Africa. H7N9 bird flu has been found in China. See the CDC Avian Flu website for more information on bird flu in specific countries.

What can travelers do to prevent avian flu?
There is no vaccine to prevent avian flu. (However, there is a vaccine for the strains of flu virus that are commonly seen in humans.) While you are traveling in countries affected by bird flu, you should avoid contact with poultry and all birds.

Do not touch birds or other animals:

  • Do not touch animals whether they are alive or dead.
  • Avoid live bird or poultry markets.
  • Avoid other markets or farms with animals (wet markets).

Eat food that is fully cooked:

  • Eat meat and poultry that is fully cooked (not pink) and served hot.
  • Eat hard-cooked eggs (not runny).
  • Don’t eat or drink dishes that include blood from any animal.
  • Don’t eat food from street vendors.

Practice hygiene and cleanliness:

  • Wash your hands often.
  • If soap and water aren’t available, clean hands with hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol).
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. If you need to touch your face, make sure your hands are clean.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Try to avoid close contact, such as kissing, hugging or sharing eating utensils or cups with people who are sick.