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Avian Influenza H5N1 Virus (Bird Flu)


Avian influenza viruses usually infect birds, but rare cases of human infection with these viruses have been reported. Humans that get avian influenza usually have come in direct contact with infected birds, birds that have died from avian influenza, or bird droppings from infected birds. "Bird flu" viruses have been found in many other species of animals, including mammals on land and in the water. These viruses can have a variety of presenting symptoms in these different species, and can cause mild to severe illness, even death in certain circumstances.

There are two categories of influenza A viruses in birds: highly pathogenic and low pathogenic, which refers to their ability to cause very mild to very severe illness in birds, specifically poultry (chickens). These bird flu virus strains typically infect waterfowl, such as ducks, and rarely infected domestic birds, including chickens, in the past. However, since February 2022, the United States has been experiencing an outbreak of a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A(H5N1) strain in both domestic and wild birds, making this the largest animal health event to ever affect the U.S. Additionally, since March 2024, this virus has been detected in dairy cattle in several states, which exposed and even infected a small number of dairy farm workers, all of whom experienced mild symptoms and have since recovered.

For more information about “bird flu” in humans, please visit the CDC website.

It is important to remember that HPAI is primarily a production and economic concern for our poultry industry. It is safe to consume properly handled and cooked poultry products, including meat and eggs.

Current US Situation as of July 17, 2024

There is ongoing surveillance throughout the US and the world to look for "bird flu" in migratory waterfowl. In the US, the US Department of Agriculture, the US Department of the Interior, and the US Department of Health and Human Services work together on this surveillance. More information on surveillance and positive results in domestic and wild animals can be found on the USDA website.

The Arkansas Department of Health works closely with other state partners, including the Arkansas Department of Agriculture and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, on all animal and human-related public health concerns.

Other Resources


What is avian influenza (bird flu)?

Avian influenza, also called bird flu, is caused by a virus that infects birds such as chickens, turkeys, geese, pigeons, and pheasants. The virus is found in an infected bird’s poop as well as fluids from the bird’s eyes, nose, or mouth.

Bird flu doesn’t usually infect people, however, there are a few ways you can get infected. A person can be infected with bird flu if they:

Symptoms of bird flu range from mild eye infections to a flu-like illness. In severe cases, bird flu can cause pneumonia and death.

Who can get bird flu?

Most humans are unlikely to get bird flu. Individuals who work with animals, such as veterinarians, farmers, animal industry experts, and wildlife professionals, or people who visit poultry farms or live-animal markets may be more likely to get infected.

What can people do to prevent bird flu?

There is no vaccine to prevent bird flu, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself.

If you feel sick and think you may have bird flu, particularly if you have a fever, talk to a healthcare provider and tell them about any contact with birds. Stay away from other people while are sick.

Preparing Food

The Arkansas poultry industry maintains rigorous health and safety standards, including routine monitoring for avian influenza. It is safe to eat properly handled and cooked poultry; there is no concern of avian influenza risk in processed poultry products.

Always properly handle and cook poultry products:

  1. Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often.
  2. Separate: Separate raw meats and poultry from other foods.
  3. Cook: Cook all poultry to 165°F.
  4. Chill: Refrigerate promptly.

For more information, click here

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