Bird flu spreads to Southern California, infecting chickens, wild birds and other animals in a rare outbreak that has sickened or killed more than 500 birds in the region in recent weeks, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Monday.
“While it is very, very rare, and we have been following it on a very, very cautious basis, we are now seeing it is actually getting out of control and is spreading to additional locales in our state,” said USDA’s Acting Regional Director John Hassler.
Hassler said the number of cases have increased from two in the last week to eight and that all of the infected birds have died.
He said that tests on all the dead birds have shown that they were infected with the H7N9 bird flu virus.
He said the agency has been conducting frequent surveys and monitoring the health of birds and said the department will keep watching to see how the outbreaks are spreading and will likely begin mass culling in the area in the next few days.
A U.S. Geological Survey study published in January showed there were more than 30 cases of the bird flu virus in the Northern Hemisphere.
“We will continue to conduct monitoring and be very careful in our actions in the region,” Hassler said.
“This is a serious situation, and we are taking immediate action to prevent further spread.”
The first case was detected in the southern San Diego County in mid-December, but since then two more cases have spread to the Inland Empire in Imperial County and to Los Angeles County.
An Imperial County man who recently returned from the outbreak zone contracted the virus. He is quarantined at home while the CDC continues to monitor the situation and the number of cases in Southern California will increase over time, with more than a dozen cases expected in the area by this week.
A U.S. Department of Agriculture