Marin County
University of California
Marin County

Bird Flu Facts and Information

“Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America,” a made-for-television movie, aired 5-9-06 and viewers of this movie may have questions about the H5N1 Bird Flu virus.

Most sources of information on Bird Flu stress the need to prepare for the disruptions that might be caused by a bird flu outbreak in the US, but at the same time to avoid the disruptions that could be caused by panic and overreaction.  The federal website for Bird Flu, http://www.pandemicflu.gov, has a "Viewer's Guide" HTML for the ABC Movie.  It's a good starting point to answer questions that may arise from the movie. 

Bird flu could become an exceptionally serious pandemic if the virus develops the ability to spread between humans. Nevertheless, the chance that anyone in California will contract bird flu from a wild bird or processed poultry is exceptionally small.

           

First, most of us do not live in situations that promote direct transmission of the virus.  The avenue of infection typically requires (1) a dispersing bird (suspected to be primarily migrating waterfowl) to join (2) a dense population of receptive birds (typically waterfowl or poultry) in (3) a situation where these birds will ingest the virus (like a crowded pond or pen) and (4) become a reservoir of the disease, that (5) can then pass the disease onto humans by close contact.


Second, most persons have no contact with live poultry and waterfowl, the primary bird groups infected by this virus.  Other birds can carry the virus, but they have much lower exposure rates and may not be as susceptible to H5N1.  We have a poultry extension program that is actively working with the small group of Californians who work with these birds http://animalscience.ucdavis.edu/Avian/.
           

Third, bird-human transmissions of the Bird Flu H5N1 have come from extensive contact with infected birds (eg., poultry handlers in China) - with the suggestion that most cases of H5N1 influenza started after a large dose of the virus is ingested or inhaled. 

           

Finally, US and California wildlife agencies are monitoring birds, particularly migrating waterfowl, for any sign of the virus.  So far, the H5N1 virus has not been detected in North America.  The virus has moved along >10000 miles of bird migration routes in Asia, Europe, and Africa in less than three years.  The disparity between this rapid movement of H5N1 across Asia and it failure to be detected in North America, should lead to a cautious optimism that there is a barrier to its movement across the Bering Sea to waterfowl populations in California

 

WEB SITES WITH BIRD FLU INFORMATION:
 
Marin County Health and Human Services Quick Facts and Updates - AVIAN INFLUENZA (H5N1)
http://www.co.marin.ca.us/depts/hh/main/hs/PublicHealth/Flu/AvianFlu.cfm

 

MARIN COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH UPDATES - DIVISION OF PUBLIC HEALTH
http://www.co.marin.ca.us/depts/HH/main/hs/publichealth/PublicHealthUpdates.cfm

 

Marin County G-Channel online PANDEMIC Flu disaster meeting (as well as other disaster information):
http://www.co.marin.ca.us/sysApps/G-channel/Default.asp

 

Marin County Emergency Education and Preparedness:

http://www.co.marin.ca.us/depts/ES/main/EEP/preparedness.cfm

 

US FEDERAL WEBPAGE ON BIRD FLU:
http://www.pandemicflu.gov
 
UC DAVIS POULTRY WEBPAGE:
http://animalscience.ucdavis.edu/Avian/

US CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL:
http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/

AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF AVIAN PATHOLOGISTS:
http://www.aaap.info/
 
FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATION: 
http://www.fao.org/ag/AGAInfo/subjects/en/health/diseases-cards/avian.html

Webmaster Email: banielsen@ucanr.edu