Avian Influenza


Avian influenza (often referred to as bird flu) is a virus that affects bird populations. There are many different strains of avian influenza that cause varying degrees of illness in birds. 

The most common types of avian influenza are routinely detected in wild birds and cause little concern. Highly pathogenic strains of avian influenza are of greater concern because they are easily spread among birds and are typically deadly to domesticated poultry.

Reporting Sick or Dead Farm Birds

If domestic poultry or other farm birds exhibit signs of avian influenza (ranging from sneezing, coughing and ruffled feathers to sudden and high numbers of bird losses), bird owners should consult their local veterinarian and notify state or federal animal health officials.

Nationally, sick or dead farm birds can be reported to USDA toll-free at 1-866-536-7593, or in Tennessee, contact the State Veterinarian’s Office at 615-837-5120.

Receive Bird Health Updates

The Word on Birds is a free email service to inform Tennessee bird owners of health threats to backyard poultry flocks and pet birds. Enroll here.

Avian influenza viruses do not normally infect humans. However, sporadic human infections with avian influenza viruses have occurred.

Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
• As a general precaution, people should avoid wild birds and observe them only from a distance, avoid contact with domestic birds that appear ill or have died, and avoid contact with surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces from wild or domestic birds.
• People who have had contact with an infected bird or birds should monitor their own health for possible symptoms of illness.
There is no evidence that any human cases of avian influenza have ever been acquired by eating properly cooked poultry products.