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Suspected botulism may have spread to domesticated ducks

September 21, 2011 | 10:43 am

Suspected botulism outbreak A suspected botulism outbreak that has been killing wild mallards in Lake Forest has now spread to domesticated ducks, a resident said.

Terry Whatley, 63, of Lake Forest, who has taken it upon herself to rescue sick and injured ducks, said she got a call Tuesday night from neighbors of the Village Pond Park saying they had found a sick bird.

She took the duck home and treated him by flushing out his system with fluids. Whatley said the duck seems to be recovering and is nibbling at food.

Until Tuesday, all the reported cases had been wild mallards, but the duck found Tuesday was one of many domestic ducks that have been abandoned at the park, suggesting that the epidemic may get worse, Whatley said.

More than 30 cases of sick or dead ducks have been reported in the last few weeks.

Authorities suspect the birds have botulism, a disease that affects the nervous system.

But Debbie McGuire, wildlife director at the Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach, which has been treating some of the birds, said they have been unable to test the birds so far, for cost reasons.

She added, however, that the Orange County Vector Control District has offered to pay for testing any other birds that die.

Bread crumbs can feed the bacteria that cause botulism, which requires warm temperatures, a protein source and a lack of oxygen to grow.

"Saying bread causes botulism is a bit of a stretch, but it definitely adds to the problem," McGuire said.

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-- Abby Sewell

Image: Map shows location of Village Pond Park in Lake Forest, where residents found dead ducks in the lake. Source: Google Maps

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