DDPHE Blog: Bird Precautions and H5N1 Bird Flu

Published on May 15, 2024

You may have heard a lot of chirping recently about avian flu. H5N1 bird flu is widespread in wild birds worldwide and, as of this spring, is causing outbreaks in poultry and U.S. dairy cows. While the current public health risk is low, Denver Animal Protection (DAP) and the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment (DDPHE) would like to remind Denver residents about the importance of taking appropriate bird precautions as well as giving additional information about H5N1 bird flu.

About H5N1 bird flu

Avian influenza refers to disease in birds caused by infection with avian (bird) influenza (flu) Type A viruses. Infected birds can shed avian influenza A viruses in their saliva, nasal secretions, and feces. Susceptible birds become infected when they have contact with the virus as it is shed by infected birds. They also can become infected through contact with surfaces that are contaminated with virus from infected birds. In addition to wild birds, domesticated birds (chickens, turkeys, ducks, etc.) can also become infected with avian influenza A viruses through direct contact with infected waterfowl or other infected poultry, or through contact with surfaces that have been contaminated with the viruses. While birds are considered the host species, it is possible for certain flu strains to spillover into other animal species. The H5N1 bird flu virus has jumped to cows in at least nine states, including Colorado. While the current public health risk is low, the situation is being monitored by state and local public health agencies.

Steer clear of bird droppings

It’s important that pets and people steer clear of bird droppings (poop) to stay safe and healthy. Bird droppings can carry germs that cause different illnesses. Always wash your hands well after touching droppings. If you have to clean them up, use a shovel, "pooper scooper," or gloves, never your bare hands. Also, try to stay away from dirty or grassy areas with bird droppings. Don’t forget to remind kids to wash their hands after playing outside to stay healthy.

If you see a sick or dead bird in Denver

If you see sick or dead bird, take extra precautions and be sure not to touch it if it is on public property. DAP instructs Denverites to report the bird by calling DAP dispatch line at 720-913-2080, contacting Denver 311 or by using Sunny the Chatbot on denvergov.org.

If you find a dead bird on your private property, you can dispose of the bird yourself, but avoid direct contact with the remains.

General precautions about touching wild animals

A change in season brings new types of wild animals into Denver and it’s important to remember to never touch wild animals. While these creatures may seem adorable, they can pose significant risks, including the transmission of diseases such as rabies. DAP encourages residents to resist the urge to interact with or touch wild animals and instead prioritize safety for both humans and animals. Rabies is a highly dangerous virus transmitted through the saliva of infected animals, primarily through bites or scratches. As a result of the danger presented by rabies, DAP takes interactions between humans and wildlife extremely seriously. Learn more about the importance of not touching wild animals on the DDPHE blog.