Symptoms | Transmission
Avian flu (also called avian influenza or bird flu) is a contagious infection that comes from a virus. There are many different strains (types) of avian flu. Avian flu can infect all kinds of birds and other animals. Some types of avian flu can also infect humans.
Why is there concern over the new strain of avian flu, H5N1?
Lately, a particular strain of avian flu, the H5N1 strain, has caused serious sickness (and in some cases, death) in humans. Many public health officials and researchers are worried about H5N1 strain because it mutates (changes) quickly by "borrowing" genes from other viruses. This makes it hard for health officials to contain the virus or make a vaccine that protects against it.
Where have there been recent human cases of avian flu H5N1? How many people have been affected by this new strain H5N1?
According to the World Health Organization, this strain of avian flu has infected humans in many countries. See the World Health Organization’s website for a list of the countries affected by avian flu H5N1, and number of confirmed cases.
How is avian flu H5N1 transmitted from birds to humans?
Most of the people infected by H5N1 avian flu caught it from working closely with live infected birds. The virus is found in infected bird's droppings and saliva.
What about human-to-human transmission?
The Public Health Agency of Canada reports that "limited, inefficient human-to-human transmission is suspected in some cases" of avian flu. In these rare cases, people seem to have caught the avian flu virus from an infected relative after having face-to-face contact with the sick relative over a long period of time. There is no evidence of other kinds of human-to-human transmission (for example, of catching the virus from strangers on the street).
What are the symptoms of avian flu in humans (flu strain H5N1)?
The symptoms of avian flu H5N1 in humans are similar to symptoms of other flu viruses: fever, tiredness, muscle aches, sore throat and cough. In severe cases, people with avian flu have trouble breathing, develop pneumonia, and may die.
For more information on avian flu
For more information on avian flu, see the avian influenza page of the Public Health Agency of Canada website, or the avian influenza page from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Back to Top