Six birds test positive for avian flu in Orange County

Rescued chickens gather in an aviary at Farm Sanctuary’s Southern California Sanctuary
Rescued chickens gather in an aviary at Farm Sanctuary’s Southern California Sanctuary on October 5, 2022 in Acton, California. A wave of the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu has now entered Southern California as the fall bird migration sets in, raising concerns for wild birds and poultry farms in the region. Farm Sanctuary is home to rescued chickens, turkeys, cows, pigs and other farm animals.
(Mario Tama / Getty Images)

Six birds in Orange County have tested positive for avian flu, according to the county’s Health Care Agency.

“Avian flu is present in Orange County and while the risk of transmission to humans is low, residents should stay away from any dead birds,” Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, the county’s public health officer, said in an advisory. “Bird flu is very contagious among birds and can sicken and even kill certain domesticated bird species including chickens, ducks and turkeys.”

Authorities advise people and their pets to avoid wild birds — whether dead or alive — and surfaces that may be contaminated with bird saliva or feces. They are advised to contact a healthcare provider if they or their pets become sick after being exposed to ill or dead birds and to report sick or deceased birds to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website.


Signs of the disease among domesticated and wild birds include sudden death; respiratory distress; clear discharge from the eyes, nose or mouth; lethargy; disinterest in food or water; swelling of the eyes, head, wattles or combs; a discolored or bruised comb, wattle or legs; and stumbling or falling.

The Orange County announcement comes less than a week after Los Angeles County’s first avian flu cases of the year were reported as birds migrate south for winter amid a global wave of the deadly virus, known as H5N1.

Public health officials warn that while avian flu is not typically a threat to humans, people should take steps to avoid infection and help stop the spread of the virus.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife advised hunters in particular to take action to limit their potential exposure to the virus, which has wreaked havoc among avian populations this year.

In the U.S., nearly 48 million birds in 43 states have died this year as avian influenza has proliferated across the country, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Experts have said that number is likely a significant undercount, because many bird flu deaths are not detected or reported.

Poultry farms have euthanized entire flocks of chickens and turkeys this year in response to the threat, and thousands of wild birds have been killed by the virus across the U.S. As fall migration gets underway, experts say an “unprecedented” wave of death among domestic and wild bird populations is spreading south, including to Southern California.

Health authorities urge Californians who encounter sick or dead birds to file a report with the California Department of Public Health’s dedicated web portal at this link.