Can humans become infected with Avian Influenza?
Yes, but the risk of infection is low. Avian Influenza in birds does not easily cause disease in humans. Only a small number of people have died overseas from infection with Avian Influenza viruses, compared to millions that die from infectious human diseases, including influenza.
For humans to be infected, they must come in close contact with infected birds or their droppings. Despite extensive contacts between people and infected birds overseas, there have been very few cases and human deaths as a result of this virus.
There is little risk of people in Australia being affected by Avian Influenza through normal contact with birds, providing they practice good personal hygiene when handling birds.
For information on Avian Influenza in humans, visit the Commonwealth of Australia Department of Health and Aging website at
What is the likelihood of a human influenza outbreak developing in Australia as a result of migratory birds carrying Avian Influenza virus to Australia?
The national Animal Health Committee agrees there is little likelihood of a human influenza outbreak developing in Australia as a result of migratory birds carrying Avian Influenza virus to Australia. If a human influenza outbreak was to develop as a result of Avian Influenza viruses mutating or mixing with human influenza viruses, it would, in all probability, develop somewhere else in the world and spread to Australia in international travellers.
Are there any risks with foods such as eggs, meat and other products from poultry and other birds?
No. Eggs, meat and poultry products in Australia, which is free from Avian Influenza, remain safe.
In countries experiencing outbreaks of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), the World Health Organisation recommends that poultry and poultry products can be safely consumed if they are properly cooked and handled during preparation. To date, no evidence indicates that anyone has become infected following the consumption of properly cooked poultry or poultry products.
Good hand washing after contact with raw products should always be followed.
How should dead birds in the wild be handled?
The disease, HPAI is not known to be present in Australia. Ongoing surveillance here continues to confirm this. Therefore it is extremely unlikely that a dead bird, found on the street, in a backyard or in parks has died of Avian Influenza.
If you find a dead bird in the wild you may simply leave it there. If you come across several dead birds in the wild, you are encouraged to report the sighting to DPIPWE's all hours hotline on 1800 675 888.
If you dispose of a dead bird, it is common sense to handle it hygienically:
- Do not handle dead birds with bare hands. Wear gardening gloves or disposable protective gloves when picking up and handling the carcasses
- Collect carcasses with plastic bag
- Place dead bird in a second plastic bag if available
- Place the carcass into the rubbish bin (if a weekly collection) or bury immediately
- Wash hands and forearms thoroughly with soap after handling
- Avoid hand-mouth contact (such as smoking and eating) when handling carcasses.
Am I at risk of catching Avian Influenza from my pet bird?
As HPAI is not known to be present in Australia, it is highly unlikely that your pet bird will become infected with Avian Influenza and even less likely that it would be transmitted to you or other humans through normal contact. If an outbreak were to occur in Australia, the transmission of this virus from birds to humans would be a rare event. For humans to be infected they must have close contact with an infected bird or its nose/eye fluid and droppings.
Bird owners should always maintain good standards of hygiene when handling their birds. You should routinely wash your hands thoroughly with soap after handling birds, and wear gloves if handling birds that are sick or dead. These are effective measures against many diseases, including Avian Influenza.
I work with birds/chickens. Am I at risk? What can I do?
While HPAI has not been reported in Australia, people working in these industries do not need to take any additional precautions at present. It is, however, important to follow general occupational health and safety (OH&S) guidelines and maintain standard hygiene measures when working with any type of animal.
Where Avian Influenza is occurring elsewhere, very close contact with sick chickens is required for a person to be at risk. Under Australian conditions, the risks of a human catching Avian Influenza would be very low even if there was an outbreak in poultry. Good standards of personal hygiene and the wearing of protective clothing are important for anyone working with animals.
It is important for everyone in the poultry industry to be vigilant for outbreaks of unusual illness or deaths in poultry and contact a vet or the DPIPWE all hours Emergency Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888 if there are concerns. Practising high standards of farm biosecurity, in particular keeping poultry feed and water supplies protected from contact with wild birds, is also important to prevent outbreaks.
If you have concerns about your health, talk to your doctor.
Can my children feed the ducks at the lake?
Yes. As Avian Influenza is not known to be present in Australia, it is unlikely that your children would become infected with Avian Influenza from feeding ducks at the lake. However, as a precaution, children should avoid playing in areas contaminated with duck droppings. You should also remember that personal hygiene (eg washing hands with soap after handling birds) should be practised routinely for a number of reasons.
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