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Avian Influenza Travel Advice

Avian influenza, known as bird flu, does not commonly infect humans. The disease is found in wild birds and can spread to domesticated birds like chickens. There are a few instances of human-to-human transmission. You can plan to avoid the potential risks of bird flu during your travels.

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Are you concerned about bird flu outbreaks during your travels? Keep reading our travel guide to learn how you can take precautions against avian influenza!

In this article, we’ll explain what bird flu is and how it spreads. We’ll also make sure you know how to avoid it and the signs that you need treatment. You’ll also find links for travel insurance to protect you financially when health concerns arise during travel!

After reading about avian influenza, check out our article on the 14 most common diseases abroad.

What Causes Avian Influenza?

Avian Influenza is a virus found in wild waterfowl populations, which spreads to domesticated birds. Rarely, bird flu transmits to humans who come in contact with infected birds or contaminated surfaces. In extremely rare settings, humans have caught bird flu from another human in close contact.

Bird flu in humans is usually caused by either the H7N9 strain or the H5N1 strain. These strains are responsible for most cases and deaths related to avian influenza. 

Is Avian Influenza Contagious?

The typical source of infection in humans is from infected birds or contaminated surfaces. Infected birds shed the virus, and when those viral particles come in contact with a human’s eyes, mouth, or nose, infection is possible.

There are still cases where scientists suspect human-to-human transmission. In one instance, the virus likely spread from poultry farm workers to family members.

In another example, a father likely contracted bird flu while visiting his son in the hospital. His son was hospitalized for a severe H5N1 infection, and the father had prolonged, unprotected contact.

Human-human transmission has yet to be sustained. However, due to the possibility of the virus mutating, bird flu does have pandemic potential. Each possible human-to-human transmission is closely monitored and investigated.

Common Symptoms of Avian Influenza

Bird flu symptoms range from mild, with almost no symptoms, to severe. Moderate symptoms include fever or feeling feverish, cough, sore throat, headaches, and fatigue. Severe symptoms of avian influenza include pneumonia or difficulty breathing that requires hospitalization.

Less common symptoms recorded for avian influenza include nauseous, vomiting, diarrhea, or seizures.

It’s important to note that bird flu is a very dangerous illness. From January of 2003 to January of 2023, there were a total of 868 human cases of bird flu. Of those cases, 457 were fatal. That means the fatality rate was 53%.

Symptoms for bird flu may be similar to other respiratory infections like tuberculosis or MERS-CoV.

Avian Influenza Man in Blue Hazmat Suit

Where Avian Influenza Is Found

Avian influenza cases in humans have been concentrated in China, Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, and Vietnam. Cases in flocks of birds have been found worldwide. Therefore, it’s important to protect yourself in settings where transmission is possible.

Key situations where the virus can spread from infected birds to humans include coming into contact with bird poop from infected birds, poultry farms, where poultry is slaughtered, live poultry markets, or undercooked eggs or chicken.

Avian Influenza Travel Restrictions

Currently, there are no travel restrictions for avian influenza (also known as bird flu.)

How to Avoid Avian Influenza While Traveling Abroad

You can prevent bird flu by avoiding settings where you may come in contact with the virus. By eating only cooked eggs and poultry products, you will lower your risk since cooking inactivates the virus.

There are other settings that you should avoid in order to prevent avian flu.

Contaminated Surfaces

Surfaces contaminated with blood or feces from birds could have viral particles. If you touch these surfaces and then touch your mouth, nose, or eyes, you could become infected. Always disinfect surfaces that have come in contact with raw poultry or meat to protect yourself from bird flu and other food-borne pathogens.

Poultry Farms

Poultry farms present a potential risk of contracting the virus. The virus can spread through droplets or dust, so if the farm has an outbreak, there’s a risk of catching avian influenza.

Live Poultry Markets

Like the dangers of a poultry farm, a poultry market may have contaminated droplets and dust from multiple farms. Avoiding live poultry markets is one way to stay safe.

Areas Where Poultry is Slaughtered

Areas where poultry is slaughtered present a risk. Even household defeathering, slaughtering, and handling of carcasses is a risk factor for contracting bird flu.

Dead Birds

Avoid dead birds abroad. If you find a dead bird in the United States, contact the local government since wildlife agencies track infections like West Nile virus and avian flu. If they tell you to dispose of the bird, wear gloves or use plastic bag.

Is There a Vaccine for Avian Influenza?

Currently, there is no approved vaccine for avian influenza strains. The seasonal flu vaccine will not protect you from bird flu. You need to mitigate risks by avoiding places where bird flu is most likely to spread to humans.

What Happens if a Tourist Gets Sick Abroad With Avian Influenza

If you get sick with a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza, you will need medical care. Since highly pathogenic strains like H5N1 have a high fatality rate, they also have a high hospitalization rate.

Travelers, expats, and digital nomads can ensure they have health insurance coverage for hospitals abroad. 

Common Treatments for Avian Influenza

Antivirals are available for anyone infected with a flu virus. These have the best chance of helping patients when started immediately after symptoms begin. If you get bird flu, the CDC recommends beginning treatment with antivirals as soon as possible.

Be aware that some of the most pathogenic strains of bird flu, H5N1 and H7N9, have some resistance to available antiviral drugs. That means treatment may not be as effective.

In addition to antivirals, medicine is available over-the-counter for symptoms. These include common medicines like acetaminophen and cough syrups.


Humans catching bird flu is not as common as some of the other diseases in our list, but being aware of the risks can help protect you. Staying away from poultry farms and live animal markets are important ways to protect yourself from disease.

In addition to pathogenic illnesses, there are a lot of other health conditions that can occur while traveling. Make sure you have plans to handle those.

Pacific Prime offers health insurance for expats, digital nomads, and travelers in regions we discussed! Find your free quote online.

Don’t see your destination listed? Find it here.

If you are interested in more article-related disease articles, check out our article on Dengue Fever. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you stay safe from bird flu?

Do not touch dead or sick birds,and stay away from poultry farms or live markets. Do not touch surfaces with bird poop, blood, or other bird body fluids on them. Wash your hands and surfaces thoroughly after preparing poultry. Make sure poultry and eggs are fully cooked before eating.

Can bird flu spread in the air?

Dust or droplets containing the virus can be inhaled. Birds carry the virus in their poop, mucus, and saliva. When humans inhale virus-contaminated particles or touch a surface contaminated with avian influenza, humans may become infected.

What is the best disinfectant for avian influenza?

Avian influenza, or bird flu, can be inactivated by approved viral disinfectants. These disinfectants change the viral particles so they are no longer infectious.

Should I be worried about avian influenza?

Bird flu, or avian influenza, currently presents a low risk to human populations in general. People who regularly work with poultry are at the highest risk. Outbreaks among bird populations are watched by wildlife agencies to anticipate any potential risks of a pandemic.

Why does avian influenza spread so quickly?

Bird flu, or avian influenza, does not spread quickly from bird to human or human to human. Among bird populations, the virus spreads quickly through contaminated surfaces or food and water. That is why farms are required to take extensive measures in order to stop the spread.