Six cases of avian influenza, also known as bird flu, were confirmed by the OC Health Care Agency (OCHCA) in Orange County through a press release on Oct. 21.
Six birds tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza A (H5N1), a highly contagious strain of avian flu that can cause severe respiratory issues and sickness in wild birds and domestic poultry. County Health Officer and OCHCA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong alerted residents to potential dangers in the press release.
“Avian flu is present in Orange County and while the risk of transmission to humans is low, residents should stay away from any dead birds. Bird flu is very contagious among birds and can sicken and even kill certain domesticated bird species including chickens, ducks and turkeys,” Dr. Chinsio-Kwong said.
The confirmation of avian flu in OC follows news of outbreaks across the country. Outbreaks started in February 2022, according to a press release by the Long Beach Department of Health and Services. Data from the CDC indicates that over 47.7 million wild birds and poultry were affected by the disease this year.
Avian flu occurs naturally among wild aquatic bird species and can spread to other bird species and human populations. According to the CDC, bird flu is spread through contact with infected bodies or surfaces contaminated with the virus.
Symptoms of avian flu in humans are similar to that of influenza, including mild to severe respiratory issues. Transmission of avian flu to human populations is rare; the CDC reported one human case of avian influenza A Type H5 in the U.S. this year. No cases of human avian influenza have been reported in OC.
To lower risk of transmission and slow the spread of the avian flu, OC health officials advise residents to take the following preventative measures:
- Avoid contact with wild birds, even if they do not look sick.
- Avoid surfaces that may be contaminated with saliva or feces from wild or domestic birds.
- Keep dogs and other pets away from wild birds.
Individuals in close or prolonged contact with birds are advised to take additional precautions to lower the risk of spread. The CDC recommends that hunters, bird and poultry owners, and individuals working with birds or bird remains wear personal protective equipment and practice biosecurity measures, among other directives.
Health officials also encourage individuals to report unusual occurrences of sick or dead birds and suspected cases of avian flu in humans.
Reports on sick or dead wild birds may be made to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Mortality Reporting. Reports on sick or dead commercial birds may be made to the California Department of Food and Agriculture at (866) 922-2473. Reports on suspected or confirmed cases of avian influenza in humans in Orange County may be made to the OCHCA Communicable Disease Control at (714) 834-8180.
Beatrice Lee is a City News Intern for the fall 2022 quarter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.