Influenza is a highly contagious, acute illness which has afflicted humans and animals. Influenza viruses are part of the Orthomyxoviridae family and are grouped into types A, B and C according to antigenic characteristics of the core proteins. Influenza A viruses infect a large variety of animal species, including humans, pigs, horses, sea mammals and birds, occasionally producing devastating pandemics in humans, such as in 1918, when over twenty million deaths occurred world-wide. Aquatic birds provide the natural reservoir for influenza A viruses, but in general, avian influenza is asymptomatic in feral birds. Occasionally, however, highly pathogenic strains of influenza cause serious systemic infections in domestic poultry.