Geese found dead in Sacramento park pond with bird flu. Can it spread to you or your pet?

After three birds were recently found dead in a Land Park pond with Avian influenza, you may be wondering about the chances of you or your pet contracting the disease.

Avian influenza — commonly called bird flu — naturally spreads among wild aquatic birds who can then infect chickens, turkeys, geese and ducks. The virus doesn’t typically infect humans, but it has happened, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Your cat or dog could contract the virus if exposed to an infected bird while outside.

The dead birds were transported to the Wildlife Heath Lab in Rancho Cordova by a Sacramento resident who found them at William Land Regional Park. A test on three geese last week came back positive for bird flu. One bird was too decomposed to be tested.

Spokesman Peter Tira with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said while it’s not a surprise the virus was detected in Sacramento, it’s ill-advised for residents to touch sick or dying wildlife for risk of transmission.

Instead, findings should be immediately reported to officials within that jurisdiction.

“Although it’s rare in mammals, we have seen it,” he said. “It’s very rare that it gets transported to people, but it’s happened.”

Don’t touch dead animals

Since 2021, 11 human cases of bird flu have been reported globally, the CDC stated.

The first U.S. case was detected in July 2022 in a Colorado male younger than 40 who was in direct contact with infected poultry on a farm in Montrose County.

Deaths have occurred but the current risk to the public remains low.

Tira said Sacramento’s recent bird flu case was “a little bit of an unusual situation” because the woman who handled the birds is a retiree who is “passionate” about city parks and pets the ducks and geese. He said she wanted the animals tested and CDFW “certainly wanted to accommodate her.”

“The public are kind of our eyes and ears in many cases because they’re outdoors...helping us keep track of our fish and wildlife,” he said.

But the recommendation stands: Do not touch dead animals. Refrain from feeding live animals, too.

More water could mean less transmission

“(Bird flu) has been here for a while, we know it’s here, hasn’t gone away,” Tira said.

“We are more hopeful this year than last year in the sense that last year, we were still in the middle of a drought.”

California is 100% drought-free ahead of a winter predicted to be plenty wet, the ideal recipe for birds to spread out and lessen the chance of transmission.

Sacramento Valley is the epicenter of the Pacific Flyway, one of four major North American travel routes for migratory birds because of the access to food and water.

CDC has recorded three bird flu outbreaks in Sacramento County, between August 2022 and September 2022. The largest flock size was 97,000 commercial turkey meat birds. The data was last reviewed on Wednesday.

Dead animals can also be reported to CDFW’s online wildlife morality form to help the state keep track of trends.

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