Symptoms of Bird Flu

Also known as the avian bird flu

<p>Grace Cary / Getty Images</p>

Grace Cary / Getty Images

Avian bird flu symptoms are similar to seasonal flu (influenza) symptoms. These include common symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat and runny nose, body pains and headache, excessive tiredness and fatigue, pink eye, and difficulty breathing.

Birds get the flu just like humans. The types of birds that can become infected with bird flu and spread it to humans include chickens, ducks, swans, geese, and turkeys. Though avian bird flu viruses (novel type A influenza viruses) do not typically infect humans, they still can and do sometimes. Sudden and sporadic outbreaks around the world have occurred. Infection can occur after exposure to type A virus-infected birds, exposure to an infected person, or exposure in a laboratory setting.

In this article, you'll learn more about the frequent symptoms of avian bird flu and what health complications are associated with it. You'll also learn how to reduce the risk of bird flu complications.

Related:Understanding the Different Types of Flu

<p>Grace Cary / Getty Images</p>

Grace Cary / Getty Images

Frequent Symptoms

Frequent symptoms of bird flu can range in severity from no symptoms at all to mild symptoms to severe symptoms that can lead to further health complications.

Common mild symptoms of bird flu include:

  • Feeling feverish or having a fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or greater

  • Chills

  • Cough and sore throat

  • Congestion (stuffy nose)

  • Runny nose

  • Excessive tiredness or fatigue

  • Body aches and pains

  • Headache and tension

  • Teary eyes or watery eyes

  • Pink eye or eye redness (conjunctivitis)

  • Diarrhea

  • Breathing troubles (such as shortness of breath)

It is important to note that all cases of bird flu illness present with fever as a symptom.

Moderate to serious or severe illness from bird flu is characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Increased difficulty breathing (such as labored breathing)

  • Altered mental state including confusion

  • Seizures

Even though symptoms may be present, a clinical symptom check alone cannot diagnose a person with avian bird flu. To confirm a case, laboratory testing is necessary. Testing for avian bird flu is similar to other influenza infection testing (for example, collecting a sample from the nose or throat with a cotton swab).

Testing is most accurate within the first few days of illness or symptoms.

If a person is already in critical condition (e.g., experiencing severe symptoms and a typical swab may not be possible or provide the most accurate results), then sample collection from the lower respiratory tract may also help to diagnose symptoms of avian bird flu.

If you have symptoms of bird flu, bear in mind your personal risk factors and consider the likelihood of your exposure to the virus versus, say, seasonal influenza. Bird flu is not common in humans. However, if you work in an agricultural environment that often requires contact with or in an area where there is a previous or current outbreak, be sure to contact your safety officer or public health department at the first sign of symptoms. They will assess your risk of exposure and advise you on the best next steps along with where you can get tested for infection. Self-monitoring of symptoms is necessary for 10 days following exposure.

Related:How Deadly Is the Flu?


Complications associated with bird flu can prove fatal in some cases.

Risks of health complications associated with bird flu are higher in people with weakened immune systems, in people over the age of 65, and in people who are pregnant.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, complications of bird flu can include:

  • Pneumonia

  • Respiratory failure

  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome

  • Multiple organ failure

  • Meningoencephalitis (serious brain inflammation)

Avoiding health complications associated with avian bird flu means getting antiviral treatment as soon as possible. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says data from antiviral treatment studies of people with seasonal influenza shows antiviral treatment is most effective when administered early on after exposure and especially within 48 hours of symptom onset.


Avian bird flu symptoms are very similar to those of seasonal flu or seasonal influenza. They include typical flu symptoms like feeling feverish and experiencing body chills, coughing, sore throat, eye tearing, eye redness or irritation, headache and body ache, runny or congested (stuffy) nose, muscle pains and body soreness, diarrhea, and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Fever may or may not present with avian bird flu symptoms. Severe symptoms include increased difficulty in breathing, mental state changes including confusion, and seizures. Complications associated with bird flu infection include pneumonia, respiratory distress and failure, multiple organ failure, and severe brain inflammation. Treatment with antiviral medication as soon as possible is necessary to reduce the risk of complications.