CDFW News | Bird flu virus activity continues in California

Bird flu virus activity continues in California

Photo Credit: Krysta Rogers, Senior Environmental Scientist at CDFW

As the Eurasian strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 continues to impact wild and domestic birds across the state, wildlife disease specialists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW ) remind the public of steps they can take to help reduce the spread of infection. To date, HPAI H5N1 has been detected in 34 wild birds from 13 counties, including Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Mendocino, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus and Yolo. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) also reported H5N1 HPAI detections in domestic birds in Butte, Contra Costa, Sacramento, Fresno, and Tuolumne counties.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza is contagious in birds, and domestic birds such as chickens are particularly vulnerable. The Eurasian H5N1 HPAI strain currently circulating in the United States and Canada has caused illness and death in a wider variety of wild bird species than in previous avian flu outbreaks. In particular, waterfowl, other waterfowl, predatory raptors and avian scavengers such as vultures and gulls have been affected. Unfortunately, infection in these species is almost always fatal and no vaccine or treatment is available.

Help reduce the spread of HPAI:

  • Report dead wild birds to CDFW using the Mortality Reporting Form. Although it is not possible to test every wild bird for HPAI, all mortality reports are important and help disease specialists monitor the outbreak.
  • Report sick and dead poultry to the CDFA hotline at (886) 922-2473.
  • Prevent contact between domestic birds and wild birds, especially waterfowl.
  • Prevent wild birds from accessing chicken feed and water or other domestic birds.
  • Do not bring home potentially sick wild birds or move sick birds to another location.
  • Before transporting potentially sick wild birds to wildlife rehabilitation centers, veterinary clinics, or other animal facilities, contact the facility for advice and to determine if the bird should be retrieved.
  • If recreating outdoors in areas with high concentrations of waterfowl and other waterfowl, wash clothing and disinfect footwear and equipment before traveling to other areas or interacting with domestic birds .
  • When it can be done safely, consider disposing of dead birds to help reduce exposure to new birds and minimize scavenging by birds and mammals that may also be susceptible to infection.

The Centers for Disease Control consider the risk of transmission of bird flu to humans to be low, but recommend as a general precautionary measure to limit contact with wild birds and sick or dead poultry. If it is necessary to dispose of a dead bird, wear waterproof gloves or an inverted plastic bag to collect the remains in a plastic garbage bag, which can then be placed in the household garbage collection. Then wash your hands with soap and water and change your clothes before any contact with domestic poultry or pet birds. If assistance or advice is needed with the disposal of dead birds on private property, contact your county’s environmental health department or animal services for options available in your area.

For more information on HPAI H5N1, see CDFW’s information flyer with frequently asked questions and links to additional resources. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) maintains the official list of HPAI H5N1 detections on its website. For tips on how to keep pet birds healthy, please visit the CDFA and USDA websites.

For advice on live orphaned or injured wild birds, please contact the nearest wildlife rehabilitation center prior to retrieving the animal. Be aware that some wildlife rehabilitation centers may have restrictions on the wildlife they accept.

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Media contacts:
Ken Paglia, CDFW Communications, (916) 825-7120


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Jennifer R. Strohm