Bird flu spreads to Southern California, infecting chickens, wild birds and other animals
The number of human cases of bird flu in Southern California and the Los Angeles area has grown to 22, and there’s a growing concern that the virus might be spreading to other parts of the state, even a potentially lethal threat for residents in high-profile cities such as Los Angeles and San Diego.
While it’s too early to know for sure how many of the birds in Southern California have been infected with the highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu virus, officials and health authorities are looking into it. It has been confirmed in birds throughout Southern California, as well as in wild migratory birds, which raise the risk that the virus could be moving north via migratory pathways.
Bird flu in California
Bird flu is currently circulating only in Southern California, with one confirmed human case and three confirmed virus infections in the state’s homeless community.
The first human case was detected by researchers in late November in a woman who flew from Japan to Los Angeles. She returned to Japan for a scheduled vacation and was found to have contracted H5N8 flu, which is a highly pathogenic flu that causes severe illness and has a potential for a very fatal outcome.
The woman was treated in a hospital in Japan and was then flown to a hospital in Hawaii for further treatment, officials said.
On Dec. 11, authorities announced the first case of bird flu in Los Angeles County, when a homeless man visited several doctors in the area with flu-like symptoms, but did not receive a diagnosis or any testing. Officials said he later traveled to San Diego County and tested positive for the virus.
Since then, there have been eight more H5N8 cases confirmed in Southern California.
The Los Angeles health department said that at present, there is no confirmed case of bird flu spreading to the larger population of Southern Californians as a result of bird-to-human transmission, but it is not ruling out the possibility.
Bird flu in the homeless
The first case in the homeless community was the result of contact with an exposed but healthy poultry worker who had recently returned from a trip to Japan.
Three bird flu cases have been reported in homeless people who had contact with poultry workers, all in Los Angeles County.
The department said it is working with experts to determine whether it is likely the virus is spreading from one