First bird flu cases in wildfowl reported in Los Angeles County this year, health officials warn;
(The story is updated at 4:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20)
Bird flu — a rare but serious respiratory disease found in wild birds — has been found at two San Diego County live-bird markets, health officials said Friday.
Both markets were closed at the time of the illnesses, but healthy birds were found at a third market.
“Bird flu has the potential of making a huge impact on our industry,” said Kevin McElroy, executive director of the San Diego-Union-Tribune newspaper. “There are several steps we can take to minimize the risk, but if you don’t take them, you won’t be the only one it affects.”
Bird flu is a highly contagious disease that primarily affects birds living in wildfowl-related habitats. It is not known to affect human beings.
“We’re in the midst of an unprecedented outbreak,” said Dr. Robert Tauxe, medical director of San Diego County’s health department. “This is like the third pandemic since the 1918 Spanish influenza and the Asian flu epidemics of the early 20th century.”
Bird flu has been found in birds living in live-bird markets in San Diego County, according to the California Department of Public Health and the San Diego County Public Health Department.
But it’s only been confirmed so far that infected birds were brought to the markets and that they were able to transmit the disease to other birds through human-to-human contact. So far, the department said there have been no confirmed cases of bird flu in humans.
The diseases are highly contagious, and “we can’t say what is the most likely risk,” Tauxe said.
While there have been no confirmed contacts with people, Tauxe said there’s no guarantee that the infected birds didn’t shed the virus on their way to market. “It’s the best-guess scenario,” he said.
The disease also is highly infectious, and health officials don’t know exactly how the virus is transmitted from animal to human. But the department does know this: “It’s an airborne virus and flies are known to spread it,