News you can use: Avian Influenza

Author: Amanda Thornton, CIC, RN, MSN

Categories: General Infection Prevention, Hand Hygiene & Surface Disinfection January 25, 2023

With the price of eggs you would think that chickens have all given up on the world and found an “eggsit”.  It certainly seems as though they have all abandoned their efforts on trying to cross the road, and have officially flown the coop!  What “eggsactly” is going on with all of this anyway?

Myth: Labor shortage is the only factor causing an egg shortage.

Fact: Avian influenza or bird flu refers to a virus which can cause diseases in both wild and domesticated bird species.  Starting in 2022 a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A(H5) virus was detected in U.S. wild aquatic birds, commercial poultry and backyard or hobbyist flocks. These are the first detections of HPAI A(H5) viruses in the U.S. since 2016 (1).  Unfortunately, they are affecting millions of birds.  All 50 states have had wild birds come back positive for the disease, and so far 47 states have detected the variant and over 57 million domestic poultry affected.

Myth: Avian Influenza can easily jump to humans, causing another global pandemic.

Fact:  The short answer is yes it can jump to humans, however the CDC makes it clear that this is highly unlikely.  Although there have been over 57 million domestic birds affected, there has been only one case of human transmission detected (in the United States) so far (1).

To that end, bird flu viruses do not normally infect humans. However, sporadic human infections with bird flu viruses have occurred.  The CDC has stated that highly pathogenic avian influenza has caused family case clusters in the past, mostly in Southeast Asia, that could be due to human-to-human transmission (2). Should this virus, or another zoonotic influenza virus, gain the ability of sustained human-to-human transmission, an influenza pandemic could result.  Influenza strains that are highly pathogenic could be more deadly than the COVID-19 pandemic.  The 1918 influenza pandemic was the most severe pandemic in recent history. It was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin. Although there is not universal consensus regarding where the virus originated, it spread worldwide during 1918-1919.  In the United States, it was first identified in military personnel in spring 1918 (3). It is estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States.

Myth: There is not much you can do to protect yourself and your family from potentially being exposed to this virus.

Fact: The CDC has some tips (4):

  • The best prevention is to avoid sources of exposure. For persons working with poultry wear protective equipment such as masks and gloves, and practice good hand hygiene.  Hunters who handle wild birds should dress game birds in the field when possible and practice good hygiene to prevent any potential disease spread.
  • If you see large amounts of dead or sickly birds in your area do not touch them or pick them up.  You can report it to the CDC by calling 1-866-536-7593.
  • Is it safe to eat eggs and chicken? The CDC is stating it is still safe to consume eggs and chicken as long as they are properly prepared. Properly handling and cooking poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165˚F kills bacteria and viruses, including bird flu viruses. People should handle raw poultry hygienically and cook all poultry and poultry products (including eggs) all the way before eating.
  • If you are a backyard hobbyist with chickens that are sick, and you become sick with symptoms of the flu such as • Fever (Temperature of 100°F [37.8°C] or greater) • Feeling feverish/Chills*• Cough• Sore throat • Difficulty breathing/Shortness of breath • Eye tearing, redness or irritation • Headaches • Runny or stuffy nose• Muscle or body aches • Diarrhea, contact your doctor and you could be prescribed antivirals to help treat the condition.
  • Do not touch surfaces that may be contaminated with saliva, mucous, or feces from wild or domestic birds. Human infections with bird flu viruses can happen when enough virus gets into a person’s eyes, nose or mouth, or is inhaled. This can happen when virus is in the air (in droplets or possibly dust) and a person breathes it in, or when a person touches something that has virus on it and then touches their mouth, eyes or nose (4).

As always, good hand hygiene practices and paying special attention to a clean and hygienic environment are key ways to prevent any kind of Influenza.  PDI is committed to infection prevention, and has a line of hand hygiene products available) as well as a wide selection of EPA approved disinfection wipes with kill claims for Influenza as well as emerging pathogens of concern.  Don’t you think this is “eggselent” news?


Amanda Thornton RN, MSN, CIC, VA-BC
amanda Clinical Science Liaison, PDI West Region


Amanda has been in nursing for the past 25 years.  She spent nine years as a direct care nurse in many clinical settings. In 2005 she entered into infection control and prevention, where she found a passion for all things related to preventing avoidable HAI’s.

Learn more about Amanda here.

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