More reports of avian influenza A (H5N1) are coming from the Turlock area, prompting officials to find ways to keep both feathered and nonfeathered residents safe.
Earlier in the month, the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency received confirmation that three birds in the county have tested positive for avian influenza. In the past couple weeks, the Stanislaus Wildlife Care Center received several birds from the Turlock area that tested positive for the disease.
The local wildlife center is working with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to set up protocols for handling birds that come in and test positive for the virus, including possible treatments, quarantine procedures and timelines for when those birds can be released back into the wild.
“So far, there haven’t been any large die-offs of wild birds in this area, but fall migration is coming, bringing hundreds of thousands of ducks and geese to this area, including Aleutian geese. Stanislaus County is where the most of Aleutian geese overwinter,” said Donna Burt, chairperson of the Stanislaus Wildlife Care Center.
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.
As of Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported 2,116 wild birds infected with the virus in the United States, 40,320,241 poultry and one human case.
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 email@example.com.
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.