Bird flu spreads to Southern California, infecting chickens, wild birds and other animals
By Kevin McFarland
5 October 2010
The first known outbreak of bird flu in the United States, in a backyard chicken farm in Kern County, California, has now spread throughout Southern California and led to the deaths of at least 15 chickens and a turkey.
The illness has been reported throughout California, although most authorities believe it has been confined to a small number of farms in Kern County, where the outbreak has been the source of speculation.
Public health officials say there are no reports of human infections. Yet health experts in several states, in fact, have been trying to determine whether the avian influenza virus they are dealing with is the same influenza that killed swine in Asia and caused outbreaks in a number of backyard chicken farms in the US.
The most recent report from the California Department of Health Services on the bird flu outbreak in Kern County states that there are at least two outbreaks, with five cases of suspected bird flu identified as of September 17.
Bird flu virus has been detected in California since early September in backyard farms and on the West Coast. The virus has not yet been linked to human cases or outbreaks. However, it is being linked to human deaths and has been described as a “man-made threat,” one of many new and potentially deadly diseases emerging in the world.
Since the bird flu has been detected on the state’s west coast, there have been outbreaks in Washington, Oregon, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts and at least two states, New York and Pennsylvania, where people have been treated for the virus.
The first reports of avian influenza in the US began to appear in the press after the mass deaths of chickens at a poultry farm in Iowa in late 2008. The outbreak was initially linked to the disease Marek’s disease, which is spread by wild birds.
The spread of avian influenza across the US and Europe was rapid, and by spring 2009, hundreds of deaths had been reported in Asia, the Indian Ocean and South America. Within a single year, more than 6 million chickens had died from the disease.
As scientists continue to decipher the molecular mechanism of bird flu, new