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Understanding the Avian Flu Virus: What are the Dangers?

The Avian Flu outbreak, also known as avian influenza or bird flu, is a strain of influenza viruses primarily affecting birds. The origin of avian influenza, among birds, can be traced back to wild aquatic birds, particularly waterfowl such as ducks and geese, who serve as natural reservoirs for the virus. These birds can carry various strains of avian influenza viruses, including the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain, without showing symptoms of illness.

The most common strain responsible for outbreaks in poultry is the H5N1 virus. This virus has impacted millions of birds globally and is considered a “destructive serial killer virus”. (Lineke Begeman, BBC) It has spread to domestic poultry and cows leading to severe outbreaks.

In recent years, outbreaks of avian flu have occurred in various parts of the world, and the virus has been shown to occasionally infect humans. In April 2024, a farm worker in Texas became the second human in the US to ever contract H5N1. Contraction of the virus may be relatively low, but it has shown a high mortality rate among individuals who have caught it. More than 50% of people who have contracted this virus succumbed to it. It can spread through direct contact with infected birds or their droppings, as well as through contaminated surfaces and materials. 

Signs and symptoms of the infection in humans  

  • sore throat

  •  cough

  •  fever

  •  runny or stuffy nose 

  • headache 

  • muscle or body aches

  •  fatigue 

  • shortness of breath. 

  • Less common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and seizures.

Infections can range from no symptoms or mild illness, such as flu-like symptoms, to more severe illness, such as pneumonia. However, contracting this bird flu virus is rare and can be easily avoided through proper sanitation measures and cooking poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165˚F. 


-Let’s stay vigilant, stay informed, and together, we can keep ourselves and our feathered friends safe from this persistent threat. ;)


Bourke, I. (2024, April 30). “unprecedented”: How bird flu became an animal pandemic. BBC News.

 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2024, April 26). H5N1 bird flu: Current situation summary. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (n.d.). Updates on highly pathogenic avian influenza (Hpai). U.S. Food and Drug Administration.



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