High Pathogenicity Avian Influenza (HPAI)

​​Avian influenza is a highly contagious, viral respiratory disease of birds. 

There are many subtypes or strains of avian influenza and all commercial, domestic, and wild bird species can be infected. 

Strains known as high pathogenicity avian influenza (HPAI) are very contagious and deadly. They cause severe disease and death in both wild and domestic birds. 

HPAI can emerge from a mutation of the less serious Low pathogenicity (LPAI) avian influenza, and this type of outbreak does occur in Australia. It requires rapid emergency responses by Government and industry. 

A new strain of HPAI appeared in 2020 known as H5N1 clade H5 

The HPAI strain H5N1 is not currently in Australia, but the virus can be introduced through migratory birds returning to our shores. 

It has spread throughout most of the world, resulting in significant disease and deaths in wild birds, as well as some marine mammals. 

These outbreaks can cause: 

  • economic losses for poultry producers and consumers 

  • disruptions to poultry and egg supply chains 

  • serious health impacts to wild bird populations, including rare and threatened animal species

  • serious health impacts on marine mammal species 

​Keeping Australia HPAI free ​

HPAI strain H5N1 has spread to multiple continents which means that there is a higher risk the virus will be introduced into Australia with the return of migratory birds. 

Surveillance to detect any HPAI virus in wild birds is important. Part of this work includes collecting swabs from ducks that are shot during the duck season or shot/trapped at any time for crop protection. 

Members of the public are also being asked to report any sick or dying birds right away to the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline on 1800 675 888. 

Apart from wild bird entry, Biosecurity Australia has strict guidelines for the importation of all live animals and/or animal products to protect Australia from exotic disease threats.  

Screening methods include: 

  • physical inspection 

  • x-ray machines 

  • detector dog inspections

Officials routinely screen all international flights for:  

  • animals or animal products 

  • eggs and egg products 

  • poultry meat 

  • poultry vaccines

  • feathers and similar items

International mail is also checked for eggs and egg products.  

Human health ​

Avian influenza in birds does not easily cause disease in humans. Only a small number of people have died overseas from infection with avian influenza viruses. 

There is little risk of people in Australia being affected by avian influenza through normal contact with birds. 

Frequently asked questions are available with detailed information about human health.

How does HPAI spread? ​

HPAI can spread quickly by direct, bird-to-bird contact. 

It can also spread indirectly through birds interacting with contaminated material like:  

  • drinking water and food 

  • manure 

  • egg crates

  • bedding 

  • farming materials and equipment 

Isolating infected birds, or viral contaminated materials, is very important for stopping the spread of HPAI. This can be achieved by stopping wild birds from contacting domestic birds’ water and food sources. 

The Duck Hunting and Muttonbirding webpage has more information for hunters.

Signs and symptoms ​

The clinical signs of avian influenza can look similar to other poultry diseases. 

The signs include:  

  • breathing difficulties

  • watery eyes 

  • bluish colouring in the comb, wattle or legs 

  • swelling of the head 

  • diarrhoea 

  • nervous signs

  • rapid drop in water/feed intake and egg production 

  • death 

HPAI is very contagious and deadly, causing severe disease and death in both wild and domestic birds. 

What to do 

Report unusual findings in wild or domestic birds, such as sudden or large numbers of sick birds or deaths, to:  

  • your local vet 

  • the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline 1800 675 888 

Reducing the risk of avian influenza ​

If you own birds you can adopt simple biosecurity measures to protect poultry and pets: 

  • prevent wild birds accessing and contaminating food and water supply with droppings 

  • supply birds with drinking water that is:  

    • treated (chlorinated) mains water 

    • water treated with chlorine from other sources​ 

A biosecurity checklist is available with information about keeping birds safe for contagious diseases like avian influenza: 

 Biosecurity Checklist for Bird Keepers (PDF 132Kb)

More information​

The Australian Government has 2 useful pages about protecting birds against avian influenza:

The NRE Tas website also has more information:


Animal Disease Enquiries

13 St Johns Avenue,
New Town, TAS, 7008.