First bird flu cases in wildfowl reported in Los Angeles County this year
The first cases of avian influenza have been reported in Los Angeles County by wildlife officials, authorities said.
“It’s not common in a wild bird population, but what they did was take a sample from an infected bird and sent it to the California Department of Health Services,” City Atty. Carmen M. Villegas said.
One of the infected birds died Monday, but officials now believe another was infected before it died. The other birds were in self-quarantine, Villegas said.
“The public health risks are minimal,” Villegas said. “There’s not a significant risk of transmission.”
There have been at least six bird flu cases in L.A.’s wild bird population, including three humans, according to San Fernando Valley-based WildCare, a nonprofit group that rescues species from urban animal shelters.
WildCare said a recent release of bluebirds from a Los Angeles Zoo was “extremely important in breaking the chain of transmission” of the virus.
This bird flu virus, H5N1, was first found in domestic fowl in 1997. It has spread throughout Asia and the Middle East, and is thought to have been present in the wild bird population since at least 2001, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said. It was first identified in domestic animals three years ago.
At least eight people have died of bird flu so far this year, with eight others hospitalized. That matches a pace of 13 deaths during last year.
The cases this year include at least one bird, which was infected in an egg farm in Oxnard, according to the Los Angeles Times. The bird was in self-quarantine after its death.
“There’s a potential connection to the egg industry, in that people could have traveled to the south, got infected with avian influenza, and then been to an egg farm,” said Dr. Richard Besser, director of the Center for Influenza Research and Surveillance at the University of California, Davis.
The H5N1 virus has mutated into a highly infectious form