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(SANTA BARBARA, Calif.) – The Santa Barbara Public Health department continues to closely monitor the developing avian influenza H5N1 situation. The risk to the general public in Santa Barbara County remains very low.

To date, there have been three human cases of Influenza A-(H5N1) (avian influenza or “bird flu”) associated with an ongoing multistate outbreak in US dairy cows located in Michigan, Wisconsin and Texas.

All three human cases had direct contact with infected cows. The individuals fortunately developed only very mild symptoms, mainly eye infection and mild upper respiratory symptoms. At this point no human to human transmission has been reported.

A targeted vaccine candidate has been identified by the CDC and would become available if the infection were to start spreading from human to human.

For now, Public Health recommends:

  • Avoid exposures to sick or dead animals, including wild birds, poultry, other domesticated birds, and other wild or domesticated animals (including cows), if possible.
  • Avoid exposures to animal feces, bedding (litter), unpasteurized (“raw”) milk, or materials that have been touched by, or close to, birds or other animals with suspected or confirmed A(H5N1) virus, if possible.
  • Do not drink raw milk. Pasteurization kills A(H5N1) viruses, and pasteurized milk is safe to drink.
  • Those who have job-related contact with infected or potentially infected birds or other animals should be aware of the risk of exposure to avian influenza viruses and should take proper precautions. PLEASE wear appropriate and recommended personal protective equipment when exposed to an infected or potentially infected animal(s). CDC has recommendations for worker protection and use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Avoid contact between your pets (e.g., pet birds, dogs and cats) with wild birds.

More resources for back yard poultry owners can be found here

Given that avian Influenza is a rapidly changing situation, the CDC is giving frequent updates on their website

Please report any unusual or suspicious numbers of sick or dead domestic birds to the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Sick Bird Hotline at (866) 922-2473 or report to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife online here.

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