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County Administrator's Office

For Immediate Release

Board of Supervisors declares emergency following detection of avian influenza at two local poultry farms

SANTA ROSA, CA | December 05, 2023

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors today declared a local emergency following detection of highly pathogenic avian influenza at two commercial poultry farms in southern Sonoma County. The detection of the virus was announced on Friday following an investigation by the California Department of Food and Agriculture and California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System, in coordination with the Sonoma County Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories.

To protect other flocks in the region and elsewhere in California, the locations of the detected infected flocks are currently under quarantine, and approximately 250,000 birds have been euthanized to prevent further disease spread. Today’s emergency proclamation by the Board of Supervisors provides additional public safety and emergency services to mitigate the effects of the disaster, including local emergency assistance for businesses that are impacted by the disease outbreak.  

Sonoma County is one of four counties in California where the highly pathogenic avian flu has been detected among commercial flocks this year. To see the state Department of Food and Agriculture statement about the detection of avian flu in Sonoma County go to:

Although avian influenza is a highly contagious and often fatal disease in birds, the detected strain is considered low risk to human health, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I want to thank county staff and leadership for spectacular work and a well-coordinated effort to address this agricultural disaster,” said Supervisor David Rabbitt, vice-chair of the Board of Supervisors.

Before voting to approve the resolution, Rabbitt said he was concerned about the potential financial impacts of this emergency on the entire agriculture community in Sonoma County, noting “there are still in the South County one million farm birds within a five-mile radius of one facility” impacted by the avian flu. Southern Sonoma County poultry farms are providing “hundreds of thousands of eggs each and every day” which supply the “food chain for the entire West Coast if not beyond,” he added.

“The impact is not just to the business themselves, but one employs 150 employees and the other employs about 70 to 80 people,” he said. By approving the emergency declaration, “we hope to see if we can provide resources to the workers of the facilities that have been impacted as well as the businesses,” Rabbitt said.      

The spread of the virus is promoted by wild birds, especially wild waterfowl such as ducks and geese, though other wild bird species can also be a source of spread. As wild waterfowl migrate in the fall season, there is increased movement of birds that are potential carriers of the virus.

“We need to promote and protect our local food shed and the agricultural producers who dedicate their livelihoods to producing food for our local populations and beyond,” said Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner Andrew Smith. “These producers are integral in maintaining and increasing food security in our communities.”

Poultry producers and backyard flock and pet bird owners are urged to increase their biosecurity practices, including wearing clean or dedicated shoes and clothing, washing hands and preventing or limiting visitors to poultry and bird areas in order to reduce the risk of accidental exposure to the virus.

Clinical signs of avian influenza in birds include sudden death; trouble breathing; clear runny discharge from the nose, mouth and eyes; lethargy; decreased food and water intake; swelling eyes, head, wattles or combs; discolored or bruised comb, wattles or legs; and stumbling, falling or a twisted neck.

Poultry owners with flocks that have experienced any unusual or suspicious illness or deaths should call the Sick Bird Hotline at (866) 922-BIRD (2473). For more information and updates, please visit the Avian Health Program webpage of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Report any unusual or suspicious dead wild birds to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife here

More information is available in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control Technical Report: Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza A(H5N1) Viruses

For public inquiries regarding highly pathogenic avian influenza in California, please call (916) 217-7517 or send an email to

Media Contacts:
Paul Gullixson, communications manager
County of Sonoma 
(707) 565-3040

California Department of Food and Agriculture
(916) 654-0462