Information About Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) was confirmed in wild birds in California on July 14 in Colusa and Glenn counties. The Eurasian H5 HPAI strain is particularly contagious and has caused illness and death in more than 28 million birds in the United States since its detection in January 2022. Please read below to learn more about HPAI, how we are responding to it, and some ways that you can help wildlife. 

What is highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI)?

The H5 HPAI strain affects waterfowl and shorebirds and can infect avian predators or scavengers including eagles, other raptors, crows, ravens, gulls and vultures if they are exposed when feeding on infected waterbirds.

Spread through the air or by direct contact with infected surfaces, the H5 HPAI strain is highly contagious in poultry and causes significant mortality. Birds raised in captivity, such as other gallinaceous birds (turkeys, pheasants, grouse, quail) and waterfowl (ducks, geese, swans), may also be at high risk of acquiring and transmitting the virus. The virus is shed in bodily fluids and fecal matter, and can easily be transferred between birds through direct contact (bird to bird), or indirect contact with people and other animals, or objects like water, clothing, shoes, even vehicles that are contaminated with virus particles. Infected birds typically display neurological symptoms such as tremors and weakness or experience sudden death.

Is HPAI transmissible to humans?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) currently considers the transmission risk of avian influenza to humans to be low, but recommends gloves, face masks, handwashing and other protective measures during contact with wild birds and domestic poultry.

How is Lindsay Wildlife Experience responding to HPAI?

The Lindsay Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital has implemented biosecurity measures to keep avian animal ambassadors safe and temporarily adjusting rehabilitation protocols for certain avian species including raptors, corvids and quail. Sick or injured raptors and corvids should still be brought to the hospital where they will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Rescuers should continue to take waterfowl and shorebirds directly to International Bird Rescue in Fairfield.

Additionally, protective screening and other safety measures have been implemented for the avian animal ambassadors that live outdoors so that the public can continue to visit them and learn about wildlife. 

What should I do if I find sick or injured wildlife? 

Please call our hospital hotline at (925) 659-8156 if you find a sick or injured animal. 

For raptors, corvids (crows, ravens or jays) or quail, use disposable gloves if you need to handle the bird. It is recommended that you wear disposable gloves when handling any wildlife. 

Use a towel or other cloth when handling a bird to place it in a secure container. Make sure the container has holes so that air can circulate and do not give the bird food or water. Do not leave the bird wrapped or it can overheat, and please place protective towels in your vehicle underneath the container. If you have backyard poultry, make sure to change your clothes after handling the wild bird to minimize any potential transfer of the virus to your animals. 

Should I take down my bird feeders and birdbaths?

Yes, we ask that you please temporarily take down all bird feeders and birdbaths to minimize wild birds congregating and potentially spreading this highly contagious virus. We will alert the public on social media and our website when we feel it is appropriate to bring out bird baths and bird feeders. 

What precautions should I take for backyard poultry?

The H5 HPAI strain is highly contagious in poultry (chickens, turkeys, ducks) and causes significant mortality. Backyard poultry can become exposed through contact with infected wild bird droppings. We recommend that owners of backyard flocks and pet birds consult with veterinarians about how best to protect flocks and help reduce the spread of HPAI.