Bird flu is a type of flu infection that spreads among birds. It is also known as ‘avian influenza’ or ‘avian flu’.
Cases of bird flu in people are very rare. It does not spread easily to humans. The spread of bird flu from person to person is also very rare.
How you can get bird flu
You can get bird flu if you are in close contact with a bird that has it.
Close contact includes:
- touching infected birds that are dead or alive
- touching their poo or bedding
- killing or preparing infected poultry for cooking
The main signs that a bird may have bird flu include:
- sudden death
- swollen head
- closed and runny eyes
- loss of appetite
- difficulty breathing
- fewer eggs laid or eggs with watery whites
You cannot get bird flu by eating poultry or eggs that are fully cooked, even in an area with an outbreak.
Reduce your risk of getting bird flu
There are things you can do to prevent bird flu.
do not go near or touch bird poo, or sick birds or dead birds
do not visit live animal markets or poultry farms if you do not need to
do not bring live birds, poultry or feathers into the country
do not eat poultry that is raw or undercooked
do not eat raw eggs
wash your hands often with warm water and soap, especially when handling food and raw poultry
use different utensils and surfaces for raw meat and cooked meat
make sure meat is cooked until steaming hot
avoid contact with live birds and poultry
report any sick or dead wild birds
Symptoms of bird flu in people
The main symptoms of bird flu include:
- a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or above
- feeling hot or shivery
- aching muscles
- a cough or shortness of breath
Other early symptoms may include:
- stomach pain
- chest pain
- bleeding from the nose and gums
It takes about 3 to 5 days for the first symptoms of bird flu to appear.
When to get medical help
Non-urgent advice: Speak to your GP if:
- you recently travelled to an area affected by bird flu and were within 1 metre of live or dead birds
- you were in close contact with anyone with a severe respiratory illness
- you had contact with anyone who died unexpectedly and was from an area that had an outbreak of bird flu
These tests can be done to confirm bird flu:
- Taking a sample from your throat and nose using a swab, to test for the virus.
- Testing your phlegm for the virus.
If the test results are normal, it is unlikely you have bird flu.
Treatment for bird flu in people
If you have symptoms of bird flu, you'll be advised to stay at home or be treated in hospital.
You may get antiviral medicine that can help:
- reduce the severity of the condition
- prevent complications
- improve the chances of survival
Antiviral medicines are sometimes given to people who have:
- been in close contact with infected birds
- had contact with infected people, for example family or healthcare staff
Getting treatment quickly may:
- prevent complications, such as pneumonia
- reduce the risk of developing severe illness
If you're abroad
Get medical help straight away if you have symptoms of bird flu.
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) lets you get free or reduced cost healthcare when travelling in:
- any European Union (EU) country
- any European Economic Area (EA) country
If you're going abroad
Check health advice for the country you're visiting.
Report a suspected case of bird flu in birds
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine watch and control outbreaks of bird flu in Ireland. They keep a list of species they monitor for bird flu.
You can report a sick or dead wild bird:
- by phone
Phone: 01 607 2512
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm
Phone: 01 492 8026
All other times
You can use an application to report a sick or dead bird. The app will work on any device with a browser and internet connection. You do not have to download the app.