Bird flu spreads to Southern California, infecting chickens, wild birds and other animals
A virus that jumped from birds to birds and from birds to humans is now expanding its reach to Southern California and perhaps beyond, infecting more wild birds as well as chickens, wild birds and other animals, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Tuesday.
The virus, which was likely transmitted to chickens by the wild birds, was discovered by the USDA in a recent investigation into the transmission of salmonella in wild birds in the San Bernardino Mountains.
The USDA has not identified any species of wild bird as having been infected and no reports of illnesses in wild birds have been reported throughout the U.S.
“The virus is spreading rapidly to wild birds, including many that are migratory, and we have a real concern for the spread of this disease to animals and humans,” said Dr. Tom Vilsack, USDA undersecretary for food safety.
The virus, named H5N1, jumped to humans from birds of the family Anseriformes — the family of common birds that includes chickens, turkeys and rails.
The USDA, which began its investigation in an attempt to find out why the birds were spreading salmonella, discovered that at least five other American wild birds were infected with H5N1 as well.
The wild birds infected include the mourning dove, tumbler dove, bufflehead, American oystercatcher and greater sage grouse.
All of the birds have been isolated and tested for the virus at the USDA’s Wildlife Research Lab in Ames, Iowa.
The USDA said the virus is also infecting wild birds in Arkansas, Oregon, Washington and Maryland, and there is now a concern for the spread of the virus to other states.
Other animals are being tested for the virus to see if they also are getting sick. The USDA has not given any illnesses to horses, dogs, cats or mink.
In an Associated Press story on the discovery of the virus, Vilsack said there is a real danger in the spread of the virus to the migratory birds that are part of the California wintering population.
“The virus can jump quickly from birds to people, and then from people to people,” he said. “We have