Travel Health Information Sheet

Bird Flu (Avian flu) - Advice for travellers

Bird flu is a virus (H5N1) that has spread amongst birds in many parts of Asia. There are also reports from African and European countries. Humans can become infected during close contact with birds, especially when infected birds are being killed and prepared for cooking. Currently, there are no recommendations to avoid travel to any country reporting avian flu.

During travel

It is very rare for travellers to get avian flu, even in risk countries. However, the following precautions should be taken if travelling to risk regions:


  • Avoid any contact with birds (alive or dead). This includes visiting live animal markets and farms.

  • Do not eat or handle undercooked or raw poultry and eggs.

  • Follow good personal hygiene rules, including frequent hand washing.

  • Try to avoid anything contaminated with animal or bird waste (faeces).

  • Make sure you have comprehensive travel medical insurance.

Advice if you are travelling to European Union (EU) countries with avian flu infected birds

If you are going to an EU country reporting avian flu, emergency veterinary rules and exclusion zones are usually applied in the outbreak area. If you are travelling to such areas, carefully follow advice about avoiding contact with birds and obey any local recommendations.

Medicines: Oseltamivir (Tamiflu®)

You are advised not to taking drugs like oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) to prevent or treat avian flu. There are several reasons for this:


  • Your risk of catching avian influenza during travel is very low.

  • Oseltamivir is a prescription drug and should only be used under the supervision of a doctor.

  • It is difficult to self-diagnose avian flu, as symptoms are so similar to many other infections.

After travel

If you have any symptoms, such as fever and a cough or difficulty breathing, ring your GP for advice or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.


Health Protection Agency: Avian Influenza News

NHS Choices: Avian Flu

NaTHNaC News items on avian influenza

NaTHNaC Outbreak Surveillance Search

World Health Organization: Avian influenza in humans

Reviewed August 2013