Should We Be Worried About Bird Flu?

Winter 2005 CSANews Issue 57  |  Posted date : May 25, 2007.Back to list

There's absolutely no need for us to panic about avian influenza – for now. Currently, avian influenza, known as "bird flu," is a highly species-specific illness and is rarely transmitted to humans. However, there are new cases appearing throughout Asia in which humans are becoming infected with the serious H5N1 strain of the influenza disease. Normally, this strain is transmitted to humans through direct contact with infected poultry or surfaces that are contaminated with excretions from infected birds. Human-to-human transmission is rare, but has been known to occur. The H5N1 strain has been reported in the following countries:

  • Romania
  • Japan
  • Vietnam
  • Mongolia
  • Thailand
  • Cambodia
  • Indonesia
  • Turkey
  • Malaysia
  • China
  • Russia
  • Republic of Korea

To date, no cases have been reported in humans in North America. However, preparations are being made in the event of a world pandemic. This could indeed occur if the H5N1 strain evolves into a human-to-human transmissible disease. The H5N1 virus mutates rapidly and can cause serious illness in humans. Further adding to this concern is the fact that the human population has no immunity against this type of virus. Anti-viral medications could provide some protection, but with certain limitations.

The good news? Tests for diagnosing all types of influenza are fast and reliable. And the chances of becoming infected with the bird flu in North America are very, very low. It remains safe to consume cooked poultry products, as avian influenza is not transmitted through cooked food. If you are planning to travel to any of the above-mentioned affected regions, be sure to avoid contact with animals in live food markets and any surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces from poultry or any other animals.

For further information on avian influenza, visit the Public Health Agency of Canada website at

Related links
Public Health Agency of Canada