Animal to Human Diseases

Many infectious diseases can spread from animals to people. These are known as zoonotic diseases. Examples of zoonotic diseases include avian flu, hantavirus, plague, rabies, tularemia and West Nile virus. Some zoonotic diseases can cause serious illness, and even death. Avoiding wild animals is the best way to prevent zoonotic disease.

Report stray or ill animals to Broomfield Animal Services by calling 303.438.6400. Seek immediate medical attention if you are bitten or scratched by a wild animal. Then contact Broomfield Public Health and Environment at 720-887-2220 as post-exposure treatments or vaccinations may be needed.

Learn more about specific zoonotic diseases below.


What is Avian Flu?

Avian flu refers to disease in birds caused by infection with avian influenza Type A viruses. These viruses occur naturally among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird species. Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses can spread very quickly and can cause severe disease and death in infected birds.

If a bird is sick or injured, please call police non-emergency dispatch at 303-438-6400 so that an animal services officer can be dispatched out to assist.

Current Avian Flu Outbreaks

Wild Birds

In Mar. 2022, a new strain of HPAI was identified in wild Colorado birds. This particular strain is causing widespread mortality in some species of wild birds, particularly in Snow and Canadian geese, raptors, and vultures. Broomfield has seen an increase in wild bird deaths, likely due to avian flu.

Domestic Birds

Domestic birds (poultry) across Colorado continue to be impacted by avian flu, which can be deadly. If you own a domestic flock, continue to keep your birds away from wild birds. Learn more about how to protect your domestic flock below. 

Keep up with the latest information through the frequently updated Colorado Parks and Wildlife web page and the Colorado Department of Agriculture web page on avian flu.

Mammals

Although no mammals have been affected in Broomfield, a number of mammalian wildlife species have been infected with the current strain of avian flu in the U.S. including skunks, foxes, black bears, bobcats, and mountain lions among several others. These mammals likely become infected by feeding on infected birds and consuming a large amount of avian flu virus. However, not every mammal that consumes a sick bird will develop HPAI. Despite the variety of mammalian species susceptible to avian flu, the numbers of mammal cases are low. The majority of cases confirmed during this avian fluo utbreak are in wild and domestic birds.

What are the Risks to Humans?

Although avian flu mainly affects wild birds and poultry, there have been rare cases in humans. Human infections are most likely to happen in people directly exposed to infected birds or contaminated environments. People should never touch wild birds and observe them only from a distance; do not touch wild and domestic birds that appear ill or have died; and avoid contact with droppings from wild or domestic birds.

Avian flu virus infection in people cannot be diagnosed by clinical signs and symptoms alone; laboratory testing is needed. Individuals are advised to monitor themselves for any signs of flu-like symptoms within a week of handling birds. Anyone who feels ill should visit their health care provider. Learn more about avian flu in humans on the Center for Disease Control web page.

What Actions Should I Take?

Wild Birds

  • If a bird is sick or injured, please call police non-emergency dispatch at 303-438-6400 so that an animal services officer can be dispatched out to assist.
  • Do not touch dead or diseased wild birds.
  • If a dead bird is on your property and removal is necessary, wear a mask, eye protection (goggles), and gloves to pick up the bird, immediately double bag it, and place the bags in municipal trash. Discard the gloves and mask, and wash your hands immediately afterward with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Hunters

Waterfowl hunters should take steps to minimize the risk of spreading the virus. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recommendations for hunters to protect themselves from avian flu

Domestic Birds

People with domestic flocks, including backyard poultry, should take precautions during this time:

  • Increase Biosecurity: Learn more about how to secure your flock at USDA’s Defend the Flock web page.
  • Monitor Flocks: Monitor for feed and water consumption, signs of HPAI, or other changes in bird behavior.
  • Report Disease: Report suspicious disease events in your commercial or backyard flocks to the State Veterinarian's office at 303-869-9130.

Pets

Although the risk is lower than it is to birds and cases are rare, your cats or dogs could become infected with avian flu if they go outside and eat or are exposed to sick or dead birds infected with avian flu viruses, or an environment contaminated with feces of infected birds. People should avoid contact between their pets and wild birds or areas contaminated with avian flu virus. If you think your pet has been exposed to avian flu and is showing symptoms of illness, contact your veterinarian and monitor yourself for symptoms. For more guidance, refer to additional CDC resources.

Mental Health and HPAI

Bird owners struggling with stress or anxiety around HPAI can contact Colorado Crisis Services by calling 1-844-494-TALK (8255) or texting TALK to 38255. Farmers and ranchers can receive a voucher for six free sessions with an ag-competent provider through the Colorado Agricultural Addiction and Mental Health Program at campforhealth.com.

Additional Resources