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Avian influenza viruses occur naturally among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect other animals, including poultry. Infected birds shed avian influenza virus in their saliva, mucous and feces. Avian (bird) influenza A viruses do not normally infect people, but some human infections have occurred, usually after contact with infected animals or surfaces contaminated with their secretions or excretions. Illness in people has ranged from mild to severe and symptomatology is similar to that of human seasonal influenza except that diarrhea and conjunctivitis may be more prominent with some strains. Three subtypes of avian influenza A viruses are known to infect people (H5, H7 and H9 viruses). Among these, Asian lineage H5N1 and H7N9 have caused the majority of infections in people.
The spread of avian influenza A viruses from one ill person to another has been reported very rarely and has been limited in transmission and not sustained. However, because of the possibility that the avian viruses could change and be able to spread easily between people (and thus potentially cause a pandemic), monitoring for human infection with these viruses is critical.
Avian influenza is immediately reportable in Orange County, even if the case has not yet been confirmed but is suspected. To report a case, health care providers/facilities should call OCHCA Epidemiology at 714-834-8180.
Human cases of avian influenza have not been reported in Orange County previously.
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