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Avian flu detected in Sonoma County

Positive cases of avian influenza, or the bird flu, have been found in four wild birds in Sonoma County. While this particular strain of the virus poses minimal risk to humans, out of an abundance of caution the Sonoma County Department of Health Services is warning residents of the potential risk of handling or coming into close contact with a diseased or dead bird.

Bird flu virus is transmitted through saliva droplets and feces occurring most commonly in wild migratory waterfowl and birds of prey. Infected birds may show signs of confusion or lack of coordination; diarrhea, coughing, and sneezing are also common ailments. Sick or dead birds can be reported to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife at (707) 428-2002 or via email at [email protected]

“It is best practice to never touch or handle birds who are deceased or exhibit signs of distress or illness,” said Dr. Sundari Mase, Sonoma County’s health officer. “While severe cases of bird flu are possible in humans, we rarely see symptoms develop beyond those of the common cold.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the human risk assessment for the generalpublic to be low. People with job-related or recreational exposures to potentially infected birds are at higher risk and should take precautions listed on the CDC website.

Symptoms to be aware of include fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, conjunctivitis, headaches, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, or diarrhea. If you develop symptoms within 10-days of exposure to an infected animal, call your health-care provider.

The bird flu dates back to 1878 in northern Italy, when it was referred to as the “fowl plague”, primarily infecting poultry. In the United States, currently 44 states have reported avian flu in wild birds, with only one reported human case as of April 2022. Reports of infected birds have been found throughout the state of California.