San Benito County public health officials are warning residents of the danger of handling or getting too close to diseased or dead birds after a number of positive cases of Avian Influenza have been detected here.
County Health and Human Services officials said in an Oct. 19 press release that cases of the Eurasian strain H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, also known as the Bird Flu, have been confirmed in wild birds in numerous counties, including San Benito.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said the risk to the general human public from the bird flu virus is low. Nevertheless, those who have job-related or recreational exposures to birds should take precautions.
The virus is transmitted through bodily fluids such as respiratory droplets, saliva and feces, says the county’s press release. Transmission can occur directly from bird to bird, or indirectly through people, animals or contaminated objects.
Symptoms are rare in humans, but include fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, conjunctivitis, headaches, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches and diarrhea. Anyone who develops such symptoms within 10 days of exposure to an infected animal should call their healthcare provider, says the press release.
“It is best practice to never touch or handle birds who are deceased or exhibit signs of distress or illness,” said San Benito County Interim Health Officer Dr. David Ghilarducci. “While severe cases of bird flu are possible in humans, we rarely see symptoms develop beyond those of the common cold.”
Birds infected with the Avian Influenza may show signs such as weakness, lack of coordination, respiratory distress, diarrhea, weakness and lack of appetite, according to public health officials. Wild game birds may be susceptible to infection with signs similar to domestic poultry.
Unusual or suspicious wild bird deaths can be reported to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife through its online form at tinyurl.com/mrxtafdb, by calling 559.243.4005, or via email at [email protected]. Anyone with questions about wildlife rehabilitation can contact the CDFW directly.
Sick or dead domestic, pet, or collection birds can be reported to The CDFA Sick Bird Hotline at 866.922.BIRD (2473).