San Mateo County advises residents to protect themselves, pets from rising bird flu cases


San Mateo County Health is advising residents with domestic birds to protect their pets from the risk of spreading bird flu due to an increase in cases in the region, according to the county health department.

Although there have been no human cases of bird flu, residents should keep their birds free “from contact with wild birds” and take precautions when handling dead birds, a county press release said.

Bird owners should also secure their birds inside a space that wild birds can’t access, remove bird feeders and bird baths so that they do not attract wild birds, store feed in sealed containers and use water from commercial sources instead of shared water sources, like ponds, the county added.

Domestic poultry — specifically chickens and turkeys — are at the highest risk of the virus, according to authorities.

Recently, according to San Mateo County Health, various bird species in the area — such as the American white pelican, great horned owl, red-tailed hawk and American crow — have all tested positive for bird flu.

Bird flu, which is highly contagious and often fatal in birds, poses minimal risk to people although residents should still take care when interacting with wild birds.

“Bird flu is common in Northern California,” said Marc Meulman, director of San Mateo Public Health, Policy, and Planning, which directly oversees the county animal control. “While the risk to humans is small, we’re asking the public to avoid dead birds when possible and for residents who keep chickens, roosters, turkeys, and other birds to prevent their exposure to wild birds.”

Companion pets — such as dogs and cats — should also be kept away from wild birds and their droppings due to the recent strain being found in carnivores such as foxes and coyotes, according to the county.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), infected birds shed the virus through their saliva, mucous and feces with human infections occurring when the virus gets into a person’s eyes, nose or mouth, or is inhaled.

San Mateo County residents who encounter a dead bird on public property are encouraged to contact the Peninsula Humane Society at (650) 340-8200 on weekdays from 8:00 am – 6:00 pm For dead birds on private property, residents may collect them safely — using gloves and a mask — before delivering them to either Peninsula Humane Society location in Burlingame or San Mateo.

Joel Umanzor (he/him) is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email:


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