Also called: Avian flu, Avian influenza, H5N1
Birds, just like people, get the flu. Bird flu viruses infect birds, including chickens, other poultry and wild birds such as ducks. Most bird flu viruses can only infect other birds. However, bird flu can pose health risks to people. The first case of a bird flu virus infecting a person directly, H5N1, was in Hong Kong in 1997. Since then, the bird flu virus has spread to birds in countries in Asia, Africa and Europe. Human infection is still very rare, but the virus that causes the infection in birds might change, or mutate, to more easily infect humans. This could lead to a pandemic, or a worldwide outbreak of the illness. During an outbreak of bird flu, people who have contact with infected birds can become sick. It may also be possible to catch bird flu by eating poultry that is not well cooked or through contact with a person who has it. Bird flu can make people very sick or even cause death. There is currently no vaccine.