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Understanding H5N1 Bird Flu


In recent years, the H5N1 bird flu has captured global attention due to its impact on wildlife, domestic animals, and potential threats to human health. Let’s learn more about it, how it spreads, and what we can do to stay safe. Interestingly, despite the global concerns, there have only been two cases of H5N1 found in the USA.

What is H5N1 Bird Flu?

H5N1 primarily affects birds, but cases in humans can occur, especially in those closely interacting with infected animals. This virus is mostly found in wild birds but can also spread to domestic birds like chickens.

How Does It Spread?

The main way H5N1 spreads is when people come into direct contact with infected birds or their environments. This could include touching sick or dead birds, or even just being in places where birds live that have the virus.

Current situation

o H5N1 bird flu is widespread in wild birds worldwide and is causing outbreaks in poultry and U.S. dairy cows with one recent human case in a U.S. dairy worker as of May 3rd, 2024.

o While the current public health risk is low, CDC is watching the situation carefully and working with states to monitor people with animal exposures. o CDC is using its flu surveillance systems to monitor for H5N1 activity in people.

Symptoms to Notice

For birds, symptoms include sudden death or signs like reduced energy and not eating. In humans, symptoms start like a regular flu, such as fever and cough, but can quickly become more severe, causing problems in breathing.

Prevention Tips

Avoid close contact with wild birds.

Always wash your hands with soap after touching birds or going to places where they live.

If you have birds as pets, keep their living areas clean and monitor them for sickness.


Staying informed and adhering to recommended precautions is crucial in managing the spread of H5N1. Public health authorities continue to monitor the situation closely, aiming to prevent the virus from becoming a significant threat to public health.

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The North Shore Public Health Collaborative (NSPHC) is a regional partnership involving eight municipalities: Beverly, Danvers, Lynn, Marblehead, Nahant, Peabody, Salem, and Swampscott.

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