H5N1 is a type of flu virus that causes a highly infectious, severe respiratory disease in birds called avian influenza or the “bird flu.” Human cases of H5N1 avian influenza occur occasionally and can be fatal.

Symptoms of the H5N1 – the avian flu are:

  • Fever and cough
  • Acute respiratory distress
  • Shortness of breath/difficulty breathing
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea

In a few cases, a mild eye infection (conjunctivitis) is the only indication of the disease.

Almost all people with H5N1 infection have had close contact with infected live or dead birds or H5N1-contaminated environments.

Health officials say it is difficult to transfer H5N1 from person to person.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is advising those travelling to a region where avian influenza (H5N1) is known to be present take the following steps:

  • Avoid all high-risk areas such as poultry farms and live animal markets.
  • Ensure that all poultry dishes are well cooked, including eggs.
  • Wash your hands frequently or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • See a health care provider if you develop flu-like symptoms while travelling or after you return to Canada.

About 60 per cent of people infected with the virus died from their illness.