What is H5N1?

Avian influenza H5N1 ('bird flu') refers to influenza A viruses found chiefly in birds, but infections with these viruses can occur in humans. The risk from avian influenza is generally low to most people, because the viruses do not usually infect humans.

However, confirmed cases of human infection from several subtypes of avian influenza infection have been reported since 1997.

Most cases of avian influenza infection in humans have resulted from contact with infected poultry (eg domesticated chickens, ducks, and turkeys) or surfaces contaminated with secretions or excretions from infected birds.

The spread of avian influenza viruses from one ill person to another has been reported very rarely, and has been limited, inefficient and unsustained.

There has never been a case of H5N1 confirmed in Australia, and there are extensive quarantine and monitoring systems in place to protect against its entry into the country.

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