Avian Influenza

Avian influenza (bird flu) is a disease caused by infection with avian (bird) influenza (flu) Type A viruses. These viruses occur naturally in wild aquatic birds, but can also infect poultry (such as chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, domestic ducks, geese and guinea fowl) and other species. On rare occasions, bird flu viruses infect people and make them sick. This typically has only happened to people who have had close contact with avian influenza-infected birds.

Current events

A strain of H5N1 avian influenza has been detected in wild and domestic birds in many parts of the U.S., and has been identified in Washington State. For more information on the current activity across the country, please see USDA’s 2022 Detections of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza and CDC’s Bird Flu Current Situation Summary. Public health officials are working closely with local, state, and federal partners to monitor bird flu in Washington. 

How does avian influenza spread from birds to people?

Birds infected with avian influenza shed the virus in their saliva, mucous and feces. People can become infected if the virus gets into a person’s eyes, nose or mouth or if it is breathed in. Bird flu infections in people are rare and most commonly occur after prolonged contact with infected birds while not wearing appropriate personal protective equipment.

Should you be concerned?

  • Although avian influenza is a highly contagious disease among birds, the risk of it spreading to people is very low.
  • The current strain of H5N1 avian influenza circulating in other parts of the country is different than strains that caused H5N1 outbreaks in previous years. To-date, the current H5N1 strain circulating in birds does not appear to easily infect people.
  • Two human cases with the currently circulating H5N1 strain have been reported worldwide, with one case reported in the UK and one case reported in Colorado. Both case patients had significant contact with infected birds prior to detection of H5N1 virus. The UK resident did not develop any symptoms of illness and the Colorado resident reported fatigue.
  • As a precautionary measure, people who have had known contact with infected birds will be contacted by public health to discuss risk and symptom monitoring.

What's happened and where?

  • Highly pathogenic avian influenza has been detected in Washington State in 2022.
  • H5N1 is currently impacting many states throughout the country, both the CDC and USDA are providing updated information on positive detections across the country.
  • Bird testing and monitoring by the Washington State Department of Agriculture and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are underway statewide.

What you can do

  • Report sick/dead domestic birds to Washington State Department of Agriculture's Avian Health Program: 1-800-606-3056.
  • Report online sick/dead wild birds suspected of avian flu to the Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife.
  • Bird hunters should follow standard safety steps to avoid potential exposure to avian influenza and other viruses or bacteria.
  • Visit the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s Avian Health Program website for information on how to best protect your flock
  • Call the Washington State Department of Health for questions about your own health: 1-800-525-0127.

How we will keep you informed

Health-related information on our website will be updated as needed.

Other resources