Bird flu, also known as avian flu, is a collective name for a disease that occurs in poultry and other birds. It is caused by variants of the flu virus (influenza virus) that are contagious for birds. Birds can get sick from this virus and even die. In rare cases, some types of these viruses can be transmitted to humans and provoke (major) flu. This only happens if there is a direct and close contact with infected birds. It does not transmit between humans.
What are the symptoms in humans?
Luckily, this virus almost never occurs in humans. People who are infected with an avian flu virus suffer from the same symptoms as with a regular flu. This means that you can suffer from fever, headache, muscle pain, cough or an eye infection. The disease is usually quite mild, but especially in Asia there are different types of bird flu viruses that can be very serious in humans with complaints such as severe pneumonia or shortness of breath.
How do you prevent bird flu?
In rare cases, avian flu viruses can pass from animals to humans. We call this a zoonosis. This usually happens after intensive contact with sick birds. This can be done, for example, as a poultry farmer or when culling sick or dead birds. So don’t touch dead birds.
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Does a vaccination exist?
There is no specific vaccine that offers protection against bird flu. This is partly because many different types of viruses exist and their compositions can quickly change. People who have direct contact with (potentially) sick birds (and animals) sometimes, for professional reasons, are given virus inhibitors to reduce the risk of getting ill.
Read more about the current situation of bird flu at RIVM (Dutch).