- Safety and Health Topics
- Avian Influenza
Commonly known as "avian flu" or "bird flu," avian influenza is a disease in people and certain animals caused by infection with avian influenza viruses (AIVs). These viruses are strains of influenza type A. These viruses are normally found only in birds. Although rare in the U.S., they can also cause infections among people.
Globally, avian influenza viruses (AIVs) have been identified in more than 100 different wild bird species.1 AIVs can also sicken and kill domesticated birds, such as chickens, ducks, and turkeys. Depending on the AIV, infections may be highly contagious among birds in these populations.
This page provides information about avian influenza (AI) for workers and employers, but most importantly, safety measures for those workers who are:
- Egg or poultry farmers or processors.
- Pet shop employees, veterinarians or zookeepers.
- Research laboratory employees.
- Restaurant employees or others who handle raw poultry.
The page includes sections on:
Provides background information on Avian Influenza including source and transmission.
Highlights information on how to recognize the risk of infection.
Provides information on symptoms and treatment.
Highlights OSHA requirements and related information that may be applicable in the event of possible worker exposure to Avian Influenza viruses.
Quick Facts about Avian Influenza
- As of March 2017, strains of avian influenza viruses (AIVs) are circulating in poultry flocks in Asia and North America. There have been more than 1,000 human cases of low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) in humans in China.
- Most AIVs do not infect humans; however, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses have caused serious infections in humans. There have never been human HPAI cases in the U.S. and only very few, sporadic human LPAI cases.
- Worker exposure to AIVs is rare. During a major outbreak, exposure to the virus may be more likely in certain workers, including poultry workers, animal handlers, food handlers, healthcare workers, laboratory workers and business travelers.
- There is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission of avian influenza (AI).
- Most human infections are linked to exposure to infected, live or dead poultry.
- Employers must take steps to protect their workers from exposure to avian influenza on the job.
- OSHA Guidance Update on Protecting Employees from Avian Flu (Avian Influenza) Viruses. OSHA Publication 3323, (2006). Also available in Spanish.
- Avian Flu. OSHA Fact Sheet, (2006). Also available in Spanish.
- OSHA Quick Cards™ to Protect Yourself: Avian Flu
- Avian Influenza Protecting Poultry Workers at Risk. OSHA.
Workers have the right to:
- Working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm.
- Receive information and training (in a language and vocabulary the worker understands) about workplace hazards, methods to prevent them, and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace.
- Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
- File a complaint asking OSHA to inspect their workplace if they believe there is a serious hazard or that their employer is not following OSHA's rules. OSHA will keep all identities confidential.
- Exercise their rights under the law without retaliation, including reporting an injury or raising health and safety concerns with their employer or OSHA. If a worker has been retaliated against for using their rights, they must file a complaint with OSHA as soon as possible, but no later than 30 days.
For additional information, see OSHA's Workers page.
How to Contact OSHA
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to help ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov or call OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), TTY 1-877-889-5627.
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Avian Influenza: Current Situation.