Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)

What Is It?

  • Avian Influenza (AI) is a viral disease of birds, especially waterfowl.
  • There are 144 different types of avian influenza viruses known.
  • AI viruses are categorized into two groups, high pathogenity and low pathogenicity, based on the extent of illness and death they cause in domestic poultry.

Why Is It Important?

  • The “Avian Flu Virus” that is of current concern refers to a specific strain of AI virus known as highpath H5N1.
  • Highpath H5N1 is present in both domestic poultry and some wild birds, but can also infect humans.

Where Is It Located?

  • Poultry with highpath H5N1 have been found in many countries in Southeast Asia, Europe and Africa.
  • Some human cases of highpath H5N1 have been reported in varied countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Near East.
  • To date, highpath H5N1 has not been found in wild birds, domestic poultry or humans in North America.

Who Is Affected By It?

  • Wild waterfowl (ducks, geese, and swans) naturally carry many forms of avian influenza viruses worldwide.
  • Domestic poultry can become infected with influenza viruses from contact with wild waterfowl.
  • Although highpath H5N1 does not usually infect people, it has occurred in people working closely with dense populations of infected chickens in some countries in Southeast Asia, Africa and the Near East.

How Does Infection Occur?

  • Transmission of highpath H5N1 virus occurs by close contact with an infected bird.

How Do I Keep Myself, My Family, and My Pets From Becoming Affected?

  • Do not handle birds that appear sick or are found dead.
  • Wear rubber or disposable latex gloves when handling or cleaning game.
  • Use good hygiene - wash hands with soap and water, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
  • Thoroughly clean knives, equipment and surfaces that come in contact with game.
  • Do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling or cleaning game.
  • Cook all game meat thoroughly - 160 to 165 degrees F.
  • Report sick (not injured) or recently dead (within 48 hrs) ducks, geese, swans or other water birds to Idaho Fish and Game via the Bird Reporting Line, toll-free: 1-877-550-BIRD (2473).

What Is Idaho Fish and Game Doing About Highpath H5N1?

  • Idaho Fish and Game is cooperating with other states and USDA Wildlife Services and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct surveillance of wild waterfowl for highpath H5N1.
  • Currently Fish and Game is:
  • Collecting and testing samples from various migratory bird species in Idaho for the early detection of highpath H5N1.
  • Providing public education about avian influenza.
Pintail drake
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Last Updated: January 26, 2015 
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