- A Better Understanding of the Current Situation
- Preventive Measures
- Information & Guidelines by the CDC
- CDC Contact Numbers
Nov. 2022: As bird flu outbreaks in wild birds and poultry continue across the U.S., the country approaches a record number of birds affected compared to previous bird flu outbreaks. Since early 2022, more than 49 million birds in 46 states have either died as a result of bird flu virus infection or have been culled (killed) due to exposure to infected birds. This number is nearing the 50.5 million birds in 21 states that were affected by the largest bird flu outbreak that occurred in 2015. Even so, the number of states affected in 2022 is already more than double the number of states that were affected in 2015.
Although the overall risk to the general public from the current bird flu outbreaks remains low, it is important that people take preventive measures around infected or potentially infected birds/poultry to prevent the spread of bird flu viruses to themselves or to other birds/poultry and other animals, including pets. This applies not just to workplace or wildlife settings but potentially to household settings where people have backyard flocks or pet birds with potential exposures to wild or domestic infected birds.
To prevent infection, people should avoid unprotected contact with wild or domestic birds and poultry that look sick or have died. Bird flu infections in people happen most often after close, prolonged, and unprotected (no gloves or other protective wear) contact with infected birds or surfaces contaminated with bird flu viruses. If contact cannot be avoided, people should minimize contact with wild birds or sick or dead poultry by taking the following precautions:
- Wear personal protective equipment (PPE), like disposable gloves, boots, an N95 respirator if available, or if not available, a well-fitting facemask (e.g., a surgical mask), and eye protection. Specific CDC and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) PPE recommendations are available at Backyard Flock Owners: Take Steps to Protect Yourself from Avian Influenza (Bird Flu).
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes during and after contact with birds or surfaces that may be contaminated with saliva, mucous or feces from wild or domestic birds/poultry.
- Wash your hands with soap and water after touching birds/poultry.
- Change your clothes before contact with healthy domestic poultry and after handling wild birds, captive wild birds, farmed birds, and other pet birds. Then, throw away the gloves and facemask, and wash your hands with soap and water.
CDC has more information for specific groups who may come in contact with potentially infected birds/poultry.
For backyard poultry or bird owners, take measures to keep your bird(s) from becoming infected with bird flu virus, which can be deadly. Infected birds shed avian influenza A viruses in their saliva, mucous and feces. Susceptible birds become infected when they have contact with the virus as it is shed by infected birds. This can happen through direct contact with infected waterfowl or other infected poultry, or through contact with surfaces that have been contaminated with virus. Avian influenza A viruses are very contagious among birds, and some of these viruses can sicken and even kill certain domesticated bird species, including chickens, ducks and turkeys.
CDC has been monitoring for illness among people exposed to bird flu virus-infected birds since these outbreaks were first detected in U.S. wild birds and poultry in late 2021. To date, bird flu viruses have been found in U.S. commercial and backyard poultry in 44 states and in wild birds in 46 states since early 2022. CDC has tracked the health of more than 5,190 people with exposures to bird flu virus-infected birds with one case reported. Information on the person in the U.S. who tested positive for bird flu earlier this year can be found in the associated spotlight and press release.
CDC continues to monitor the current situation and risk to the general public. Sporadic human infections with bird flu viruses in the U.S. resulting from close contact with infected birds/poultry would not be surprising given past human infections that have occurred in other countries after exposure to infected birds. This would not significantly change CDC’s risk assessment. However, if person-to-person spread with this virus were to occur, that would raise the public health threat. Note that sustained person-to-person spread is needed for a pandemic to occur. It is important for people to continue taking precautions around infected and potentially infected birds/poultry to help reduce the risk of bird flu virus infections in people.
Backyard Chicken Keepers
If birds in your flock have avian (bird) influenza (flu) A virus infection, or you suspect they might, take the following actions to protect yourself:
- Don’t touch sick or dead birds, their feces or litter, or any surface or water source (for example, ponds, waterers, buckets, pans, troughs) that might be contaminated with their saliva, feces, or any other bodily fluids without wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Wear PPE when around sick or dead birds.
- As best as possible, during depopulation and while cleaning and disinfecting contaminated premises, avoid stirring up dust, bird waste, and feathers to prevent virus from dispersing into the air.
Once bird flu infection is confirmed within a flock and premises, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) recommends that backyard owners continue to wear PPE when in contaminated areas until there are no longer infected birds, eggs, feces, or contaminated litter on the property. The recommendation to wear PPE when in contaminated areas (primary poultry housing: coops, runs, barns, etc.) depends on whether a 150-day fallow is used for virus elimination after flock depopulation.
USDA has information on cleaning and disinfecting or fallowing of premises that were contaminated with highly pathogenic avian influenza virus and information on good biosecurity practices:
- Cleaning & Disinfection Basics (Virus Elimination) (usda.gov)
- Checklist for Cleaning and Disinfecting Poultry Enclosures
- Checklist for Managing Poultry Manure and Litter
Birds infected with highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses may show one or more of the following signs:
- Sudden death without clinical signs,
- lack of energy and appetite,
- decreased egg production or soft-shelled or misshapen eggs,
- swelling of head, comb, eyelid, wattles, and hocks,
- purple discoloration of wattles, comb, and legs,
- nasal discharge, coughing, and sneezing,
- incoordination, or
If you see any sign of illness in your birds, immediately report it to your state veterinarian or the U.S. Department of Agriculture (1-866-536-7593).
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD)