Bird flu spreads to Southern California, infecting chickens, wild birds and other animals
Wild birds are dying in droves from an influenza type H7 strain that is spreading from chickens to other birds, wild birds and domestic chickens, according to results of a study at the University of California, Davis.
The deadly outbreak, dubbed a “bird flu” by bird health experts, is already spreading across Southern California and could be seen in birds across the world.
The pathogen is being transmitted directly from chickens to birds and to other animals, the researchers said.
“We are seeing that the virus first infects the digestive tract of the chicken, and then it spreads to the respiratory tract and then to all organs of the chicken,” said Bruce Blair, a microbiologist at UC Davis’ Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology and lead author of the paper.
The study was published in the scientific journal, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The outbreak in birds and other animals is prompting international concern over the spreading of avian influenza, a disease that can kill poultry and mammals with no treatment.
“This is the first time we’ve seen an influenza virus infect another bird species and spread between animal species,” said Dr. Blair, a senior investigator for the California-based Center for Virology and Immunology.
“The disease does not seem to target or kill adult birds,” he added.
The disease, which first emerged in Hong Kong in 1997, is caused by a highly infectious strain of the H7N7 virus that has infected humans and caused illnesses like the H5N1 influenza virus, which has killed some 30,000 people since 2009.
“H7 is now circulating in chickens in many countries,” Dr. Blair said.
No treatment or vaccine exists yet to fight off the disease.
“We don’t know how it spreads from poultry to other animals or from other animals to