Bird Flu in Birds

PetMD Editorial
By PetMD Editorial
Published: June 27, 2008
Bird Flu in Birds

Avian Influenza

Avian influenza (or bird flu) is a lung and airway disease found in birds, and it is caused by the influenza virus. This viral infection can also spread to humans, so if your bird is infected, seek immediate treatment and take all necessary precautions to prevent an outbreak of bird flu.

Because of its infectious potential to humans, any breakout of avian influenza has to be reported to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States. Recently, a ban has been placed on imported pet birds from countries where bird flu has been reported (i.e., certain African, Asian and European countries).

To make sure your new bird does not have avian influenza, get it examined by a veterinarian for infectious diseases and inquire about the bird’s origins.

Symptoms and Types

The symptoms for avian influenza include:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Breathing problems
  • Swelling of the head
  • Discharge from the eyes
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression

It is important to note that not all birds infected with avian influenza will display symptoms, and that it can die suddenly. In addition, if not treated in time, the fatality rate for bird flu is high.


Avian influenza is spread through direct contact with nasal discharges and feces of an infected bird. Any bird can be infected with this virus, including wild birds, domestic or pet birds, and poultry.


Any bird showing symptoms of avian influenza should be quarantined immediately and separated from the rest of the birds (or humans). The veterinarian will diagnose the bird flu through tests for viral infection. The treatment, however, is dependent on the specific virus infecting the bird.


A vaccine has been developed to prevent avian influenza, but its success in birds (other than poultry) is dubious. Therefore, it is important to prevent exposure and contact with infected birds, if at all possible.

Quarantining the infected birds and thoroughly disinfecting the environment, will also prevent the avian influenza from spreading.

Help us make PetMD better

Was this article helpful?

Get Instant Vet Help Via Chat or Video. Connect with a Vet. Chewy Health

Subscribe to PetMD's Newsletter

Get practical pet health tips, articles, and insights from our veterinary community delivered weekly to your inbox.