Outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A (H5N1)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspective Health Services (APHIS) have recently detected highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A (H5N1) in U.S. wild birds and commercial poultry farms. On March 14, 2022, USDA confirmed a case of HPAI in a commercial farm in Wisconsin. For more information on this outbreak, visit our Outbreaks in Wisconsin webpage.
Wisconsin actively monitors for human cases of avian influenza and has plans in place to respond, if necessary. Currently, there is no imminent threat to Wisconsin since there is little evidence of sustained human-to-human spread of the bird flu in other parts of the world. It is difficult to predict if a bird flu virus will become a pandemic, but Wisconsin has plans in place to respond to that possibility, regardless of the source. You may also visit flu.wisconsin.gov or Influenza (Flu) home for more information on how to protect yourself against the flu.
What is avian influenza?
Avian influenza occurs naturally among birds and is caused by influenza viruses. Birds carry the viruses in their intestines but usually do not get sick from them. However, avian influenza is very contagious among birds and can make some domesticated birds, including chickens, ducks and turkeys, very sick and can kill them.
How does avian influenza spread?
Birds act as hosts to influenza viruses by carrying the virus in their intestines and shedding it in bodily fluids, such as saliva, nasal secretions and feces. Other birds become infected when they come in contact with these fluids. Humans can become infected through contact with infected poultry or contaminated fluids. Avian flu can spread from birds to people and cause serious illness and even death.
Avian influenza has not mutated to a point where it could easily spread from person-to-person. It's difficult to predict if – or when – that might happen, or if it will result in an influenza pandemic. People who have gotten sick with avian influenza have been in direct contact with infected birds.
What are the signs and symptoms of avian influenza?
Symptoms of avian influenza in humans range from typical influenza-like symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches) to eye infections, pneumonia, acute respiratory distress, viral pneumonia and other severe and life-threatening complications.
Health care providers will tell patients how to treat their illness, depending on the severity of their symptoms. Treatment may include hospitalization, supportive care and/or the use of antivirals. Studies have shown that one antiviral drug called Tamiflu (oseltamivir) may possibly protect against the H5N1 strain of influenza.
Is it safe to eat poultry?
Yes, it is safe to eat poultry that has been fully cooked. General precautions should always be taken when handling any raw meat, including raw eggs, to avoid possibly spreading germs. These measures include:
- Washing hands and surfaces before and after food preparation.
- Avoiding using the same utensils on raw meat as on other foods, even cooked meat.
- Cooking raw meat thoroughly.
Note: The U.S. bans imports of poultry from areas where birds are infected with the H5N1 virus.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Travelers' Health website for important information before traveling.
- Wisconsin Department of Agriculture tracks the spread of avian flu.
- CDC – avian influenza
- U.S. government official website for information on pandemic flu and avian influenza
- Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection press release
- What Employers Should Know About Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), P-03308 (PDF) Department of Health Services (DHS) fact sheet
- What Workers Should Know About Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), P-03308a (PDF) DHS fact sheet
Thomas Haupt, Influenza Surveillance Coordinator
DHS Division of Public Health
Bureau of Communicable Diseases