Avian influenza (also known as "H5N1" and "bird flu") is an infectious disease of birds caused by type A strains of the influenza virus. The infection can cause a wide spectrum of symptoms in birds, ranging from mild illness, which may pass unnoticed, to rapidly spreading, fatal diseases that cause severe epidemics. Avian influenza viruses do not normally infect humans. However, there have been instances of certain highly pathogenic strains causing severe respiratory disease in humans. In most cases, the individual infected had been in close contact with infected poultry or with objects contaminated by their feces.
Top Four Things Camps Need to Know about Avian Influenza
- Avian influenza generally does not infect humans. According to the CDC, the spread of avian influenza A viruses from one ill person to another has been reported very rarely and has been limited, inefficient and not sustained. However, because of the possibility that avian influenza A viruses could change and gain the ability to spread easily between people, the World Health Organization notes that monitoring for human infection and person-to-person transmission is extremely important for public health.
- Understand shortages and escalating costs in the food suppply. Recent avian influenza outbreaks have caused a shortage in eggs, egg products, chicken, turkey and other poultry food products. Discuss supply availability and alternatives with your food service provider. Expect costs to rise, and availability to decrease.
- If your camp raises poultry, consider the current risk. Some camps raise their own poultry. Many maintain their own hens for eggs. Understand the current risks, and consult with experts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has excellent resources for raising small groups of poultry (see below).
- Establish and enforce universal precautions. Safe food handling, cleaning and sanitation procedures, and procedures to prevent the spread of disease are always crtical to camp operations. Understand the facts, and train your staff well. Excellent resources are below.
- Avian Influenza: Overview. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Avian Influenza: Protection Actions You Can Take. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Camp Food Service Providers: List of ACA Business Affiliates that provide food products and/or service to camps.
- Communicable Diseases: Resources and Tips for Camps. American Camp Association
- Raising Chickens in Small or Backyard Flocks: Best Practices. Extension.org
- Statistics about Avian Influenza: Status of outbreaks, worldwide impact, etc. Flu.gov