First bird flu cases in wildfowl reported in Los Angeles County this year, along with reports from the rest of California
Eddie Gonzales’ family in Santa Susana, California, has had its own brush with the flu.
The 50-year-old farmer was feeling unwell one night after eating at the Redondo Beach restaurant of his employer, Dr. Stephen Taylor, an infectious diseases specialist. The next day, he was dead, with the flu having claimed the life of his wife, children and two employees.
After the shock of the sudden death of his wife and employees faded, Gonzales began to wonder if he had contracted something else. Days after his family’s disappearance, he decided to do a routine blood test.
The results gave Gonzales a diagnosis of bird flu, which at that time had not been discovered in birds in the wild. The virus became known as H5N1, and was later discovered to be a strain of bird flu linked to the 2003 bird flu outbreak in Guangdong, China. In a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the authors from China and the United States concluded that there was a “strong possibility” that it had originated in wild birds along the Pacific coast.
Within days of his diagnosis, Gonzales wrote his own journal article, “Bird H5N1: The California Flu of 2004.” It came out July 27 of last year, three months before the first cases of bird flu were reported in wild species this year in California.
“I didn’t know how much information the public had,” said Gonzales. “But when your own relatives, friends and co-workers die from that virus,” then, “I thought maybe there might be some information out there.”
On Sunday, Gonzales’ wife, Maria, died from the flu.
California has seen a number of influenza-like illnesses, beginning in late March with some of the first cases of H1N1, according to the California Department of Public Health’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response.
The cases of H1N1 occurred in the far northern reaches of Los Angeles County, near the Oregon border. The first of those cases was in a man visiting friends north of Santa Monica. It was reported on March 27, and the cases of H1N1 have been sporadic along that coast and elsewhere, with one documented case in August. The first confirmed