"Avian influenza viruses are naturally occurring in wild birds such as ducks, geese, swans, and gulls. These viruses generally do not cause illness in wild birds, however, when spread to poultry they can be highly pathogenic and cause illness and death in backyard and commercial farms. Outbreaks may cause devastating agricultural economic losses and some viral strains have the potential to infect people directly. […] Since 1996, a strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus, H5N1, has caused infection in wild birds, losses to poultry farms in Eurasia and North Africa, and led to the deaths of several hundred people. […] In the United States, HPAI viruses have severely affected the poultry industry with millions of domestic birds dead or culled. These strains of HPAI are not known to cause disease in humans; however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise caution when in close contact with infected birds. Experts agree that HPAI strains currently circulating in wild birds of North America will likely persist for the next few years. This unprecedented situation presents risks to the poultry industry, natural resource management, and potentially human health. Scientific knowledge and decision support tools are urgently needed to understand factors affecting the persistence of HPAI in wild birds, to forecast future spread of HPAI by wild birds, and to detect novel strains of HPAI that may emerge."
Fact Sheet 2015-3060
U.S. Geological Survey: http://www.usgs.gov/