- 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.
How do I find out about employer responsibilities and workers' rights?
Workers have a right to a safe workplace. The law requires employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces. The OSHA law also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for exercising their rights under the law (including the right to raise a health and safety concern or report an injury). For more information see www.whistleblowers.gov or Workers' rights under the OSH Act.
OSHA can help answer questions or concerns from employers and workers. To reach your regional or area OSHA office, go to the OSHA Offices by State webpage or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).
Small business employers may contact OSHA's free and confidential On-Site Consultation program to help determine whether there are hazards at their worksites and work with OSHA on correcting any identified hazards. Consultants in this program from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing injury and illness prevention programs. On-Site Consultation services are separate from enforcement activities and do not result in penalties or citations. To contact OSHA's free consultation service, go to OSHA's On-Site Consultation web page or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) and press number 4.
Workers may file a complaint to have OSHA inspect their workplace if they believe that their employer is not following OSHA standards or that there are serious hazards. Workers can file a complaint with OSHA by calling 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), online via eComplaint Form, or by printing the complaint form and mailing or faxing it to the local OSHA area office. Complaints that are signed by a worker are more likely to result in an inspection.
If you think your job is unsafe or if you have questions, contact OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742). Your contact will be kept confidential. We can help. For other valuable worker protection information, such as Workers' Rights, Employer Responsibilities, and other services OSHA offers, visit OSHA's Workers' page.
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Avian Influenza: Current Situation.