A mutated bird flu in the Bay Area, like COVID for birds

Local wildlife consultants are getting ready for the worst of bird flu, often known as avian flu, in the Bay Area. The virus is extremely contagious, has no treatment, and impacts all the pieces from pigeons and poultry to owls and raptors. If it continues to unfold, thousands and thousands of Bay Area birds may die.

The virus was first detected in Northern California in July. “Currently, 55 info have been recognized [highly pathogenic avian influenza] in wild birds in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma counties,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Ken Paglia advised SFGATE.

These early instances might solely be the tip of the iceberg. “It is estimated that thousands and thousands of birds have died as this virus has unfold throughout the nation,” WildCare Wildlife Hospital in San Rafael mentioned in an electronic mail.

WildCare spokeswoman Alison Hermans advised SFGATE that the virus is unpredictable and will be “devastating” for birds, however “as a result of the Bay Area is in the center of one in every of the 4 migratory flyways in North America, it is winter migration and now we have huge numbers of raptors and waterfowl in the Bay Area.” We’re getting ready for the worst … There are horror tales from different wildlife facilities about what number of birds have died.

Bird flu can sicken and kill virtually any bird, and the Bay Area is dwelling to eight endangered bird species, all of which may very well be in danger from the virus.

The Bay Area has had bird flu outbreaks earlier than — the most up-to-date was seven years in the past, Hermans mentioned. But this time the virus has mutated and is extra contagious.

“It’s like going from the flu to COVID,” Hermans advised SFGATE. “This pressure is killing thousands and thousands of birds throughout the nation, as opposed to some hundred waterfowl in a selected space with earlier virus strains.”

That’s unhealthy information for the Bay Area’s wild birds, particularly since the new pressure of avian flu has practically 100% mortality for the raptors, a few of the area’s most endangered species. “Many species of untamed birds can turn into contaminated, and plenty of birds can die from an infection, in distinction to the prevalence of varied ailments in the previous. [highly pathogenic avian influenza] viruses,” Paglia mentioned.

The virus may even have a devastating financial affect on Bay Area farmers.

Bill Mattos, president of the California Poultry Federation, mentioned, “This kind of bird flu is harmful and lethal for turkeys, chickens and egg layers. “We misplaced about 300,000 turkeys that needed to be culled.”

Although farmers have to this point stored the illness in most sheep, Mattos mentioned, “Winter is coming and the illness is primarily unfold by birds in flight.” Thus, the biosecurity of the poultry trade is on “excessive alert”.

Chicken lovers additionally fear about their flocks.

“I’ve taken biosecurity significantly as a result of I’ve over 30 birds in my blended flock,” North Bay rooster fanatic Kimberly Pelham advised SFGATE. “I cowl runs to maintain out wild birds and different critters. “If one in every of my birds died unexpectedly, I might take them to Davis for burial.”

A barred owl, an endangered species discovered in the Bay Area, hunts for prey alongside a small stream in Muir Woods National Monument.

Robert Alexander/Getty Images

According to the journal Science, bird flu, which beforehand unfold in the Pacific Northwest and Canada, “killed untold numbers of untamed birds” and compelled farmers to euthanize practically 33 million chickens and turkeys. The 2014 outbreak price farmers $3 billion, killing 50 million birds.

“I do not let wild birds in, and shortly I’ll be operating over them,” mentioned Rebecca Fernandez, who retains chickens in Oakland. “An acquaintance of my associates had his livestock diminished by the state as a consequence of bird flu. It’s good to take it significantly.”

Bird flu, a minimum of in its present kind, poses a low danger to people. According to the World Health Organization, about 450 individuals have died from bird flu since 2003.

But as with all infectious virus, there may be at all times the risk of leaping to people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that bird flu infections in people stay uncommon, however the company acknowledges that the virus will be transmitted to people.

“Although this sort of ‘change’ doesn’t happen with avian influenza viruses,” the CDC says, “… Genetic reassortment also can happen in an individual with influenza an infection. avian influenza A virus and human influenza A virus”.

Such genetic reassortment can result in viruses that “transmit persistently from individual to individual and have pandemic potential,” based on the CDC.

There are a number of steps Bay Area residents can take to cut back this long-term human danger and hold birds secure in the short-term. Like many viruses, bird flu is unfold via aerosols, bodily secretions, and even human clothes and footwear. Experts advocate altering garments, particularly footwear, after dealing with poultry and eradicating bird feeders and baths, particularly if there are poultry or poultry in the yard.

Officials additionally warned towards feeding birds in public ponds and lakes.

As the virus continues to unfold, small wildlife hospitals can shortly turn into overwhelmed. “Wildlife hospitals are small nonprofits,” Hermans mentioned. “The inflow of birds requiring quarantine house and the psychological and emotional toll on our employees and volunteers coping with sick and dying birds and making euthanasia choices is a big problem.”

If you see a wild bird that’s sick, name your native wildlife hospital earlier than approaching it. Several Bay Area wildlife hospitals function 24/7 hotlines for individuals to report sick or injured wildlife.

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