Epic Bird Flu Outbreak

If you keep birds, poultry or have a backyard bird feeder, headsup. A particularly nasty strain of bird flu is skyrocketing here in the US with the fall migration of wild birds. Worldwide, people are acting to try to mitigate its spread. In the UK, some call it the "flockdown."

This week, San Mateo County Animal Control formally notified us about recent detections of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in San Mateo and neighboring counties, and asked us to inform you. Why? Because there are things we can do together to slow the spread of this disease that is highly fatal to birds. For example, mortality rates in domestic poultry can be up to 100%.

They also assured us that poultry and eggs remain safe to eat; cook thoroughly.

The big picture is to keep our birds socially distant from the wild birds who are migrating south for the winter. If you have pet birds or backyard poultry, whenever possible, secure birds inside an enclosure that wild birds cannot access. To avoid attracting wild birds, remove bird feeders and bird baths from your property. Clean up any uneaten feed promptly. Use water from commercial sources, rather than ponds shared with wild birds.

One can add more mitigations like, clean and disinfect clothing, footwear and equipment before entering bird housing areas or handling birds. Wash hands with soap before and after handling birds. Wash vehicles in a commercial car wash after driving onto other farms or areas with birds. Veterinarians working with birds will wear the full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) garb.

If you want to do a deeper dive, information is also available from the Department of Fish and Game. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers information on "How Bird Flu Spreads" to other birds (and rarely to humans), and "What to know about Bird Flu." Another terrific flier, particularly for sharing with family, comes from the California Department of Food and Agriculture called "Biosecurity for backyard birds." You can also read the official statement from the County of San Mateo, which includes even more resources.

Please tell people you know who have backyard bird feeders and bird baths about this warning. Together, let's do what we can to slow the progression and mitigate the spread.