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​​​H5N1 Bird Flu

Bird flu can make wild birds, poultry, cows, and people sick.

Bird flu, also known as avian influenza, can make wild birds, chickens, turkeys, and other animals like goats, cows, foxes, and cats sick. Humans can catch bird flu from sick animals, things touched by sick animals, or raw milk from sick cows, though this is rare. 

Bird flu is not common in people, but it could become more common. 

Most of the time bird flu doesn't spread to humans.  However, flu viruses can change quickly. If the virus changes to spread to humans easily, we worry that it could cause a flu pandemic.  

Since January 2022, there have been only three human cases of bird flu in the United States, and all of the individuals recovered.  Around the world, there have been 26 human cases of bird flu. Fourteen were very sick, and seven died. Now, there's more worry because the virus is also infecting cows.    

Symptoms for people with bird flu can include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Muscle aches
  • Runny nose
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea, vomiting, or stomach pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Eye irritation, redness, or discharge (conjunctivitis)

Protect yourself against bird flu by washing hands and wearing protective gear.

  • Wash hands before and after handling animals. Remove waste, feathers, and dirt first. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren't available. 
  • Avoid eating, drinking, or touching your face while with animals.  
  • Don't let kids kiss birds; wash their hands if they touch them.  
  • Clean bird feeders, coops, and pens wearing disposable gloves, then wash hands.  
  • Use separate shoes/boots just for the coop or barn. 
  • Do not consume raw milk or raw milk products.

For information on keeping your flock safe, learn more about Defend the Flock ( If your backyard flock has bird flu, the personal protective equipment to keep you and your family safe are found at Backyard Flock Owners: Take Steps to Protect Yourself from Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) | Avian Influenza (Flu) ( 

Getting a regular flu shot is a good idea.

There is no flu shot that will prevent bird flu, but getting a regular flu shot every year can stop you from getting both regular flu and bird flu. If someone has both viruses at once, they could mix and make a very harmful flu that spreads more easily to humans. Getting the regular flu shot helps keep this from happening and makes your community safer.

Sick birds or cows should be reported immediately.

If your livestock, chickens, turkeys, or other birds are sick, contact PA Bureau of Animal Health and Diagnostic Services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 717-772-2852 option 1. If you find sick or dead wild birds, contact the PA Game Commission at 833-742-4868 or They may arrange for testing of the birds.​​

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