Protect Yourself From Bird Flu: The Importance Of NIOSH-Approved N95 Masks

Bird flu (sometimes known as avian flu) is a type of flu that, mostly, impacts birds. Like the human flu, bird flu is a collection of influenza viruses, with new ones appearing regularly when the current strain ‘mutates’ into something different. Now, while the viruses are nearly always transmitted from bird to bird, there have been a few strains of the bird flu viruses that have managed to ‘mutate’ and infect humans. While no bird flu has ever reached a full-scale pandemic (so, we don’t have another COVID-19 around the corner), if you regularly come into contact with birds or those who come into contact with birds, it may be worth protecting yourself. Getting bird flu isn’t pleasant. Plus, if you protect yourself from the virus, there’s less chance that the bird flu will impact humans in the future.

Today, we want to talk to you a little about bird flu. We’ll cover what it is, the symptoms, a few of the more recent bird-to-human outbreaks, and the importance of protecting yourself against avian flu. However, our main goal is to teach you how to protect yourself properly from bird flu. We’ll even share a product that we really think will help.

What Is Bird Flu?

As we said, bird flu is the collective name given to a group of influenza viruses that spread between birds. Over the years, dozens and dozens of strains have been identified. Infected birds need to be culled. Whenever bird flu outbreaks occur, you’ll often see news articles about how entire bird stocks are devastated. Due to the close confines of farms, if bird flu starts spreading there, it very rapidly spreads among all the birds. These birds are killed, decimating bird stocks for human consumption.

Bird flu spreads from bird to bird. If it infects domesticated birds (poultry), then it is likely that the flock was impacted by a wild bird. As you can probably guess, bird flu spreads like wildfire since birds get around quite a bit. They even fly from country to country (thousands of miles). This makes bird flu very, very tough to control. It is also why we have so many strains of bird flu.

While it is rare, bird flu can spread to humans. There have been four strains of bird flu identified in humans:

 H5N1 (first appeared in 1997)
 H7N9 (first appeared in 2013)
 H5N6 (first appeared in 2014)
 H5N8 (first appeared in 2016)

    Most of these strains of the virus don’t pass easily between humans, and a person will need to be in very close contact with birds, or somebody infected, to really stand a chance of being impacted. However, there is evidence that bird flu has mutated and there is a chance that more humans could be impacted in the future. In 2021, H5N8 was found in Russia, impacting several people. Some people have died from the other three stains.

    It is H5N1 which seems to be the primary cause of concern, though. In May 2024, a dairy worker in Michigan became the second person to be impacted by this strain. He caught it from cows (which shows that H5N1 has mutated to the point where it can pass between mammals).

    What caused the most concern, however, is that at the end of May 2024, scientists sequenced the new H5N1 strain and believe that it has mutated to the point where it is ‘easier’ for the virus to pass from mammal to mammal.

    While the ‘mutation’ is still at an early stage, and it likely doesn’t pose a major risk to the public, people should now be wary of the fact that bird flu is mutating and, if it continues to do so, the risk to the public will continue to increase. There may be a point where bird flu could be bordering on pandemic proportions.

    The Symptoms of Bird Flu

    Now, this is where there are some issues. If a person is infected by bird flu, they might not actually know they’ve got bird flu. This is because many of the symptoms are very similar to typical cases of flu. This means:

     High temperature
     Aching muscles
     Shortness of breath
     Vomiting and nausea
     Chest pain
     Nose bleeds.
     Gum bleeding

      People with healthy immune systems may be able to ride out these symptoms, although it might not be pleasant. However, the body’s immune system isn’t necessarily equipped to handle bird flu, and this means that your body may have a tougher time fighting it off than other influenza viruses. This is why it is so important that if somebody has bird flu, they visit the doctor. The doctor can prescribe anti-viral medication, which allows the body to fight off the virus.

      There is a risk of death from bird flu, as with all influenza viruses. It is a small risk, but a risk nonetheless. The unhealthier you are, the more chance of death. So, it isn’t a virus you really want to have.

      If you suspect you have bird flu, then do not come into contact with others. It could spread. You’ll especially want to avoid the elderly, children, and pregnant women.

      Should You Worry About Bird Flu?

      It depends.

      Most people won’t need to worry about bird flu, at least at this stage. If the virus does continue to mutate, then it may pose a very real problem. However, the average person doesn’t currently need to go out of their way to protect themselves from bird flu. It is still worth protecting yourself, though. Not because it can keep bird flu at bay, but because many of the tips that we share shortly will help to keep other viruses at bay. So, you might want to wear a NIOSH-approved N95 mask, for instance. Or, at the very least, practice good hygiene.

      The Importance of Protecting Yourself Against Bird Flu

      If you’re around birds, know somebody regularly around birds, or around farm animals, then it is essential that you protect yourself against bird flu. In fact, it is essential that you protect yourself against bird flu if you’re working with raw bird meat too (particularly if it is wild meat, farmed meat should have been tested for bird flu already).

      As we said – getting bird flu isn’t pleasant. The risk is small, but there is a risk. If you catch bird flu, then it can make you seriously sick. Even the healthiest person in the world would be out of action for a week or two with influenza. In the worst-case scenario, catching bird flu could even kill you. Although, once again, we’ll stress that the risk of death is minimal. Still, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be protecting yourself. The more humans protect themselves, the less chance that bird flu has to mutate into something even more deadly.

      Prevention and Protection

      If you come into contact with birds, then it is essential that you take precautions to ensure that you’re protected from bird flu. Luckily, you won’t really have to do too much to protect yourself. Remember COVID-19? Well, many of the things you did to protect yourself then apply here, only you won’t be isolating yourself from people, but from birds.

      Avoid Contact with Wild Birds

      While bird flu can come from domesticated birds, precautions are so strong in the farming industry that it is incredibly rare that bird flu, if discovered among a domesticated flock, will last for long. The birds will be very quickly culled. Plus, most people will be wearing proper protection around these flocks anyway.

      The real issue comes from wild birds. In every single case, when bird flu has appeared among domesticated birds, it is because wild birds have spread it. So, if you want to steer clear of bird flu, then minimize your interaction with wild birds. Don’t touch them. If you must touch them, then make sure that you wash your hands after.

      Cook Poultry & Hunted Wild Birds Properly

      It is always important to cook poultry (domesticated birds) properly. It stops all sorts of serious illnesses (some of which are much more common than bird flu). However, you’ll want to make double sure that wild-hunted birds are cooked all the way through. Wild birds are the biggest carriers of bird flu and if you don’t cook them properly, there’s a huge risk of getting bird flu yourself.

      All birds should be cooked to a minimum of 165F (74C) in the middle of the thickest part of the bird (normally the breast). If the bird is cooked less than this, then any food-borne bacteria, viruses, diseases, etc. will not be killed off properly. You could get sick from even mildly undercooked birds.

      Ideally, you would eat the cooked bird right away. If not, don’t leave it on the countertop for too long (just enough for it to cool down). Put it in the refrigerator. Never reheat. At this point, any present bird flu virus should be killed off, but there is still a risk of other bacteria impacting you.

      Wash Hands After Touching Birds

      When humans are infected with bird flu, 9/10, it is because they have touched their nose or mouth after coming into contact with birds. There’s no other way for the virus to get into your body (other than through an open wound). So, if you have touched birds, especially wild birds or potentially infected poultry, wash your hands properly. At least 30 seconds, with a good anti-bacterial soap.

      Don’t touch your nose or mouth until you’ve washed your hands!

      Wear Proper Protective Gear

      If you’ve got no choice but to be around birds frequently, for example, if you farm poultry, then it is essential that you invest in some good protective gear.

      There are three things you should always be wearing here:

       NIOSH-Approved N95 masks (more on that soon).
       Protective gloves
       Protective clothing (PPE suit)

        None of this gear is particularly expensive, and it should all be enough to ensure that if bird flu is lingering around the environment, it won’t land on your body. This is assuming that you’re wrapped up properly. You’ll still need to wash your hands after. If you do, and you’re wearing proper protective equipment, then the chances of you getting infected with bird flu, let alone anything else that may be around those birds, is practically zero.

        NIOSH-Approved N95 Masks

        Buying protective gloves and protective clothing (PPE suit) isn’t particularly tough. However, getting the right protective mask may prove difficult. This is because there are a lot of masks on the market, many claim that they can protect you from airborne viruses. However, not all of them will. If you want to protect yourself from bird flu, you’ll need a NIOSH-Approved N95 mask.

        So, what is a NIOSH-approved N95 mask?

        When we say a mask has been NIOSH-approved, it means that it has been tested by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (i.e. NIOSH). This means that the mask has been vetted for quality, and tested to ensure that it provides the protection it claims to offer. If a mask hasn’t been NIOSH-approved, then there’s no guarantee that it will offer the protection it claims.

        N95 means two things. The N means that the mask works fine with non-oil-based particles (which is fine for dealing with birds). The 95 means that the mask will filter out 95% of airborne particulates measuring 0.3 microns or bigger (and 0.3 microns is very small).

        N95 masks will ensure that you don’t breathe in:

         Bird feces particles
         Dust that may have bird flu, or other bacteria/viruses present.
         Dirt/grime that may have been impacted by bird flu.

          So, wear an N95 properly, then you’ll be properly protected from anything that could really cause bird flu to come close to your nose or mouth (remember – the nose and mouth will be fully covered). In fact, wearing a NIOSH-approved N95 mask properly will protect you from most airborne viruses.

          Don’t worry. You can still breathe easily when you wear an N95 mask. It still lets air in and out. It just won’t let those bird flu-carrying particles come in through the mask.

          How to Wear a N95 Mask Properly

          Wearing an N95 mask properly isn’t too tricky. When you put it on, you want to ensure that it forms a tight seal around your nose and mouth. Good quality N95 masks will have an adjustable strap so you can close up those gaps.

          Remember – any gaps around the mask will mean you have no proper protection. Dust will get in, and you won’t be protected from bird flu. So, ensure all those gaps are properly closed up. If the mask feels loose, throw it away and get a new mask.

          When you remove your mask, only touch the straps. Don’t touch the front of the mask, as dust will be there. Make sure that you wash your hands after.

          Store your NIOSH-approved N95 mask in an airtight container if you plan on using it again. If you don’t, you’ll need to throw the N95 mask away. This is because the rear of the mask (i.e. the part by your mouth/nose) will get clogged up with dirt/grime/dust if not properly stored. So, it’ll offer no protection when you put it back on.

          Disposing of and Replacing Your N95 Mask

          An N95 mask won’t last forever. In fact, they have an expiry date (check the product packaging when you buy one). If you notice any of the following, it is time to throw away the mask:

           The mask has started to become loose or fits poorly.
           It is becoming harder to breathe through the mask (this means the filter may be clogged).
           The mask is visibly dirty, dusty, or oily.
           You’ve used the mask for more than a week (or a few days, if you’re wearing it for several hours per day).

            When you throw the N95 mask, you’ll have to put it in the trash. It can’t be recycled. We suggest that you throw the N95 mask away in a bag. This way, nobody will touch that mask accidentally (remember – it may be carrying the bird flu virus, or something else). Wash your hands after removing the mask.

            Final Thoughts – Keep Bird Flu at Bay

            While it is rare that bird flu can transmit from bird to human, it does happen. When it does happen (and it happens a few times per year, with the latest outbreak happening in May 2024), it can make a person seriously sick. In rare cases, they may die.

            If you’re around birds a lot, whether they are poultry or wild birds, then it is essential that you’re properly protected. This means investing in some proper safety gear for both you and your family. The most essential piece of kit would be a NIOSH-approved N95 mask, which should protect your mouth and nose from bird flu when you’re around birds.

            If you’re looking for the best protection against bird flu, then you go and buy some NIOSH-approved N95 masks. Wear the masks every time you’re around birds, and the chances of you getting infected with bird flu (and most other bird-transmitted illnesses) is practically zero.


            What Mask is Best for Bird Flu?

            You should purchase a NIOSH-approved N95 mask to ensure you’re properly protected against bird flu.

            How to Protect Against Bird Flu?

            Avoiding direct contact with birds is a good start. If that’s impossible, then wear proper protective clothing, including gloves and an N95 mask. You’ll also want to wash your hands properly after coming close to potentially infected birds.