Zoonotic influenza – public health measures

Measures to prevent and control outbreaks of zoonotic influenza in animals should aim to minimize virus circulation and thus reduce the risk of human infection and disease. These measures should bring together different sectors, such as public health, animal health and environmental health, for the safe handling of dead and potentially infected animals, and to tackle virus circulation at both administrative and technical levels, following WHO’s “One Health” approach.

Measures to prevent human infection with zoonotic influenza viruses should focus on reducing human exposure at the human–animal interface. Preventive measures should target not only occupational risk groups (e.g. veterinarians, poultry workers, cullers, pig farmers etc.), but also anyone in contact with potentially infected birds and animals (e.g. live bird market workers and visitors, or households practicing home slaughtering of birds and pigs).

In addition, surveillance to detect possible human cases needs to be intensified, and plans for the response to the first detection of a human case in an area should be reviewed.

Management personnel engaged in the public health response to outbreaks of zoonotic influenza are recommended to familiarize themselves with publications such as the following:

  • Summary of key information practical to countries experiencing outbreaks of A(H5N1) and other subtypes of avian influenza (2016);
  • Pandemic influenza risk management – A WHO guide to inform and harmonize national and international pandemic preparedness and response (2017);
  • WHO Regional Office for Europe overview on avian influenza for public health professionals (2015).