4 wild birds in Sonoma County infected with Avian flu virus; currently minimal risk to humans

Residents are being asked to avoid handling or coming into contact with dead or potentially diseased birds.|

Local health officials have detected positive cases of avian influenza among four wild birds in Sonoma County.

Officials said the strain of bird flu poses minimal risk to humans. Nevertheless, residents are being asked to avoid handling or coming into contact with dead or potentially diseased birds.

Officials said avian influenza virus is transmitted through saliva droplets most commonly occurring in migratory birds and birds of prey. Sick birds may show signs of confusion or lack of coordination, as well as diarrhea, coughing and sneezing, county officials said in a statement.

“It is best practice to never touch or handle birds who are deceased or exhibit signs of distress or illness,” said Dr. Sundari Mase, the county’s health officer.

Mase said severe cases of bird flu, while possible in humans, rarely develop beyond those of the common cold.

Officials said residents regularly come into contact with wild birds, including recreational staff, should take precautions listed on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Sick or dead birds can be reported to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife through their online form, at 707-428-2002 or via email at askbdr@wildlife.ca.gov.

County officials said risk of human infection remains low. In the U.S., 44 states have reported bird flu infections in wild birds. But there’s been only one reported human case as of April 2022.

According to the CDC, the seasonal flu vaccine can help reduce the risk of getting sick with human and bird flu viruses at the same time. The flu vaccine will not prevent infection with bird flu viruses.

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @pressreno.

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