If you needed another reason to not touch a dead bird, then the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency has one for you. It might be infected with avian flu.
The health agency recently received confirmation that three birds in the county have tested positive for avian influenza A (H5N1). The virus is contagious among certain domesticated bird species and can be deadly to birds such as chickens, pheasants and turkeys, among other domestic fowl. The virus is often spread to domestic birds through interactions with wild birds.
Infected birds shed bird flu virus in their saliva, mucous and feces. They may show signs of confusion or lack of coordination, diarrhea, coughing and sneezing.
Chicken, eggs and other poultry and poultry products are safe to eat when properly handled and cooked.
People rarely get bird flu; however, human infections with bird flu viruses can happen when enough virus gets into a person’s eyes, nose or mouth, or is inhaled. This can happen when virus is in the air through droplets or dust and a person breathes it in, or when a person touches something that has virus on it and then touches their mouth, eyes or nose.
Bird flu infections in people happen most often after close, prolonged and unprotected (no gloves or other protective wear) contact with infected birds and then the person touches their mouth, eyes or nose.
“While there is currently minimal risk to people, everyone should avoid contact with sick or dead wild birds, their saliva, and their feces,” said Dr. Julie Vaishampayan, Stanislaus County Public Health Officer. “To avoid infection from touching possibly contaminated surfaces, wash your hands frequently, keep your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth, and get the flu shot when available to avoid opportunities for this virus to change and gain the ability to spread more easily in people.”
In April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a human case of avian flu in Colorado. The individual had direct exposure to poultry and was involved in the culling of poultry with presumptive avian flu. The patient reported fatigue for a few days as their only symptom and has since recovered.
Sick or dead birds can be reported to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife through their online form, or at (707) 428‐2002 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
People with job‐related or recreational exposures to potentially infected birds are at higher risk and should take extra precautions. If a person develops flu‐like symptoms within 10 days of contact with an ill or dead wild bird, they should contact their healthcare provider.