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Avian Influenza Fact Sheet

If I am exposed to a bird with the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1, will I get sick?

H5N1 avian flu viruses do not normally infect humans. However, occasionally, human infections have occurred with these types of viruses.

What type of contact with an infected bird is considered a higher risk exposure?

Prolonged and close contact with infected sick or dead birds is of most concern for transmission from birds to humans.

How are strains of avian influenza transmitted to people?

A person can breathe in the virus or can touch something that has the virus on it and then touch their mouth, eyes, or nose. 

What signs and symptoms might occur in someone infected with the Eurasian HPAI H5N1 virus that is circulating in 2022?

People may experience no symptoms, mild symptoms (such as eye redness or mild flu-like symptoms), or severe symptoms (pneumonia).  These symptoms can include fever or feeling feverish, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and shortness of breath. Less commonly, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and seizures can occur.

Why is there a concern about persons becoming infected with this virus?

If someone becomes infected with H5N1 avian influenza and is also infected with another strain of influenza, such as seasonal influenza, the viruses can exchange gene segments and create a new virus that people would not have immunity to and, if person-to-person spread occurred, it could result in a pandemic.

What public health follow up will there be for anyone who has been exposed to a bird testing positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N1)?

The local health department where you live will call with instructions on the 10-day follow-up period. They will ask you to respond to a quick daily survey  about your health status. Although it is very unlikely for someone to get this strain of avian influenza, if you do have symptoms after close contact with a positive bird, call your local health department. 

How should I dispose of a dead bird on my property?

If an individual finds a dead bird and wants to dispose of it properly, use the following method.

  1. Wear gloves made of rubber or latex (i.e., not cloth) or a plastic bag over your hands – or use a shovel, tongs, or other instrument to pick up the bird and place it in a plastic bag.
  2. Make sure the beak or claws don’t puncture the bag.
  3. Seal the bag and then seal it inside a second plastic bag. Put the double-bagged bird with trash that will be picked up.
  4. Wash your hands with soap and water immediately after disposing of the bird.

When should I report a wild bird die-off?

If people encounter five or more deceased wild waterfowl, waterbirds, or raptors in one location, they should contact their local Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) district wildlife biologist (DNR district biologists) or the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Wildlife Services at 866-487-3297.

If I am exposed to a bird with the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1, will I get sick?

Review the “Defend the Flock” program on the USDA website. Defend the flock.

Flock owners, managers, or veterinarians should report any unusual findings in domestic poultry, such as an increase in mortality, decrease in water consumption, decrease in egg production, or respiratory signs, including coughing and sneezing immediately to the Illinois Department of Agriculture at 217-782-4944 or to the USDA at 866-536-7593.