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What Is Avian Influenza?
Avian Influenza (AI) is a respiratory disease that affects all types of birds. Wild birds are most often the carriers of the disease and while they can get sick or die from it, they usually carry it asymptomatically. Domesticated birds, including farm birds and pets, get very ill from AI. There is no treatment and most domesticated birds die from AI within 48 hours of catching it.
How Does AI Spread?
AI is spread through contact with the feces or nasal secretions of infected birds. Farm birds that go outside, such as free-range and organic egg laying hens, are most at risk because they can come in direct contact with infected wild birds. Farm birds can also catch AI through contact with infected wild bird feces which humans can inadvertently carry into a barn on their shoes or clothing.
Can We Prevent it?
Because there is no treatment, the best way to prevent farm birds catching AI is for farmers to have a rigorous biosecurity program. This program includes restricting who enters a farm, changing clothes and footwear before entering and after leaving a barn or range, washing hands frequently, disinfecting equipment and vehicles and much more.
Can Humans Catch AI?
It is important to note that AI is not a human health concern. The only cases in humans have been in people who have had extended and direct contact with infected birds. The general public does not need to worry about catching AI. In addition, AI is not spread through food so you won’t catch it by eating turkey or chicken meat or eggs. That being said, meat and eggs from infected farms are destroyed and not sent to stores.
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