What is the Avian Flu?

You may have heard talk on the news about the avian flu. The avian flu is a type of the A strain virus that infects birds. Typically, humans cannot catch the flu from birds, but a few bird-to-human outbreaks have been reported since the late 1990s. Most of them have been in Asia. People were infected when they came into contact with sick birds or with contaminated surfaces. Most had flu-like symptoms, but some had more serious complications, including pneumonia and acute respiratory distress. For information on current avian flu outbreaks, visit CDC: General Information on Avian Influenza (Bird Flu).

Who Has a Flu Risk?

Anyone can get the flu, but some groups are more susceptible than others and are at greater risk for more serious complications or even death.

Risk groups include:

  • Children under the age of 2 (whose immune system is not yet fully developed)
  • Seniors over the age of 65 (most flu deaths are among seniors)
  • Anyone who has a chronic medical condition (such as asthma or diabetes)
  • Pregnant women
  • Health care workers
  • Nursing home residents

The CDC recommends that high-risk individuals get a flu vaccination each year.