Not All Heroes Wear Capes: Suiting Up To Protect From Bird Flu

Responding to the threat of a Bird Flu in our wildlife clinics continues to be daily challenge. Just take a look at video of one our staff, Jennifer Martines, as she prepares to intake a new patient. To stay safe from bird flu, aka avian influenza, or more precisely, Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), requires extra precautions and a high level of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). This is necessary to safely screen birds and handle existing patients in quarantine. Despite the inconvenience, the process is worth it to protect our in-house patients from the spread of this highly-contagious virus.

Bird Rescue is doing everything to prepare for this coming baby bird season – our busiest time of the year. The priority is to protect the health and safety of the hundreds of orphaned chicks that are raised in care during spring and summer.

These efforts along with the costs for food, utilities and staff time, continues to strain our modest budget – especially during these inflationary times.

If you can help with a donation, your contribution will greatly help our team prepare to handle the influx of patients during these uncertain times.

Video production: Ariana Gastelum–International Bird Rescue

Why Avian Influenza is a Serious Threat

Emergence of H5N1 Bird Flu (CDC infographic)

Bird Rescue is encouraging the public to be educated and aware that Avian Influenza is a serious and deadly bird virus. Read more about the avian virus at this CDC website.

If a rescuer of a wild bird has domestic birds at home (chickens, ducks, and turkeys), special care is necessary to prevent the spread of the virus between birds. Do not expose the birds to any clothing or objects that have had contact with the other. To keep domestic birds safe from this virus, see information pages on the USDA website.

This influenza virus can be spread through a bird’s saliva, mucus and feces, and the most common symptoms in wild birds are neurologic or respiratory abnormalities such as seizures, tremors, or respiratory distress. Although the virus is relatively fragile and susceptible to disinfectants such as dilute bleach and others labeled against influenza viruses, it survives well enough to be transmitted by contaminated inanimate objects such as vehicle tires, equipment, and shoes. The virus remains environmentally viable much longer at colder temperatures and in wetter, freshwater conditions than in dryer, hotter, saltier conditions.

What Can You Do?

Going forward, public is encouraged to follow these steps to help stop the spread of HPAI:

  • Be especially careful if you work around and/or have backyard domestic fowl (chickens, ducks, and turkeys). A second set of clothing and shoes for this work should be used, to avoid cross-contamination. Changing your clothing and shoes both at arrival and departure from the worksite could drastically reduce the risks.
  • Protect yourself: If you find a sick bird, wear gloves and a mask. Wash your hands after handling any birds.
  • Bird feeders. Although songbirds and hummingbirds have a lower risk of becoming ill from HPAI, feeders should be cleaned and disinfected at least weekly due to risks of spreading other diseases (salmonella, mycoplasma, avian pox, etc). Responsibly managed feeders can be a wonderful way to enjoy the beauty of local birds.
  • If you find a sick or dead bird and suspect HPAI,  please alert California Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) via its mortality reporting website.
  • New: California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is recommending “housing poultry inside and discouraging any interaction with wild birds, particularly migrating or resident waterfowl and raptors.” Read full CDFA statement here