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County reminds residents to be mindful of bird flu threat

San Mateo County is asking residents who keep domestic poultry flocks to prevent exposure to wild birds.
2021_06_22 Backyard chickens_JG
Backyard chickens grazing. Stock photo.

Residents who keep backyard birds are being asked to proceed with caution after Avian Influenza was detected in the Bay Area. 

“Bird flu is common in Northern California,” said Marc Meulman, director of Public Health, Policy, and Planning, which supervises Animal Control and Licensing. 

“While the risk to humans is small, we’re asking the public to avoid dead birds when possible and for residents who keep chickens, roosters, turkeys, and other birds to prevent their exposure to wild birds,” he added.

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) is highly contagious and often fatal in birds. 

Multiple wild bird species in the Bay area have recently tested positive for HPAI, including:

  • Canada geese
  • American white pelican
  • California gull
  • Mallard
  • Turkey vulture
  • Great horned owl
  • Red-tailed hawk
  • American crow
  • Cooper’s hawk

For most residents, the virus does not pose a threat, as there is minimal risk to people, but caution should still be taken as human infection can occur through direct contact with sick birds. 

No cases of HPAI have been reported in people in the Bay Area.

HPAI is also not known to pose a risk to companion animals, such as dogs or cats. However, the current strain has been found in wild carnivores, including foxes and coyotes. 

The county urges residents to keep pets away from wild birds and their droppings as much as possible.

Domestic poultry flocks

Domestic poultry, including chickens and turkeys, are at highest risk of contracting HPAI.

Backyard poultry, commercial flocks, and pet birds can become infected with HPAI through contact with wild birds, their droppings, or shared food and water sources.

Those who keep pet birds and poultry should consider the following precautions:

  • Whenever possible, secure birds inside an enclosure that wild birds cannot access
  • Remove bird feeders and bird baths from property to avoid attracting wild birds
  • Store feed in sealed containers
  • Use water from commercial sources, rather than open ponds shared with wild birds
  • Limit visitors to your bird housing area and avoid contact with other birds or flocks as much as possible
  • Clean and disinfect clothing, footwear, and equipment before entering bird housing areas or handling birds
  • Wash hands with soap and water before and after handling birds
  • Wash vehicles in a commercial car wash after driving onto other farms or areas with birds

For dead birds on private property, residents are encouraged to call the Peninsula Humane Society, which manages animal control services on behalf of the County. The Humane Society will collect dead birds and other dead animals from public property. 

For collection of dead birds from public property, call (650) 340-8200 on weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and on weekends and holidays from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

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