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July 10, 2024

What Employers Should Know and Do About H5N1 Bird Flu

A new guide to protecting your employees during the H5N1 bird flu outbreak

What Employers Should Know and Do About H5N1 Bird Flu
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The ongoing H5N1 bird flu outbreak presents a particular challenge for business leaders in the agricultural sector. Although there have been relatively few human cases in the U.S. (five since 2022), agricultural producers, such as poultry, dairy, and livestock farmers, are at higher risk of infection.

To help employers protect their workers, their business, and the people in their communities, our partners at the Public Health Communications Collaborative (PHCC) have developed a new guide to understanding H5N1 bird flu, recognizing its symptoms, and ensuring a safe working environment.

Download your free copy of "What to know and do about H5N1 Bird Flu," and read on to learn more about the disease and its health risks.

Access your free copy of "What to know and do about H5N1 Bird Flu"

What Is H5N1 Bird Flu?

H5N1 bird flu, a viral disease that primarily infects poultry (e.g., chickens, turkeys, ducks) and other wild birds, has also infected dairy cows and resulted in the deaths of millions of birds in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)n, H5N1 bird flu outbreaks in poultry have occurred in 48 states, and more than 100 dairy herds have been infected since 2022. 

H5N1 is considered an animal health issue at this time, but the virus can spread to humans through prolonged contact with infected animals or their contaminated environments. In humans, the disease can cause symptoms similar to seasonal flu, as well as atypical symptoms like eye infections. Severity ranges widely, from mild or no symptoms to severe illness and death.

H5N1 Bird Flu Prevention

There is currently no publicly available vaccine, but the process of developing vaccines is underway, and several FDA-approved antiviral drugs used for seasonal flu are available for bird flu treatment.

Agricultural producers can help prevent transmission by ensuring employees properly use PPE, wash hands thoroughly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub, and avoid touching their skin with gloved hands.

Even with preventive measures, H5N1 bird flu infections can still occur. To help identify an H5N1 infection, watch for symptoms similar to the seasonal flu. 

Currently, H5N1 tests can only be accessed at public health laboratories. If an employee is experiencing symptoms, encourage them to see their medical provider as soon as possible and notify the local or state public health department. 

Employees who have had contact with an infected coworker should monitor for symptoms. Infected employees can return to work once they test negative for H5N1 bird flu.

New Guide for Employers

"What to know and do about H5N1 Bird Flu" can help you understand the disease, protect your team, and stop the virus’s spread. The guide was developed by the Public Health Communications Collaborative, an information hub for professionals who communicate about public health. The guide is designed to help business leaders make informed decisions about the health and safety of their workforce, covering topics including: 

  • Transmission: Learn how H5N1 bird flu spreads among animals and humans. 
  • Symptoms: Recognize signs like respiratory distress, eye redness, and other symptoms.
  • PPE Best Practices: Learn about proper use of personal protective equipment, including disposable outer garments, gloves, high-filtration masks, safety goggles, and shoe covers.
  • Response Protocols: Know how to respond if employees have had contact with infected birds or animals.
  • Environmental Controls: Discover how to reduce wild bird presence on business property and minimize risk.
  • Accessible Communication: Get communication tips to increase understanding and compliance.
  • Financial Assistance: Find information about programs to help offset the financial cost of providing PPE to employees.

Download PHCC’s guide to understanding H5N1 Bird Flu here. By adopting these safety measures, employers can help prevent conditions that could lead to more human-to-human transmission.

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