Everything We Know About the Bird Flu

What started in early 2022 has was a persistent, and more and more troubling, avian influenza outbreak. The hen flu has affected no less than 58 million birds and despatched egg costs sky excessive, although scientists are watching its unfold in different species as nicely. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains that the general public well being risk stays low, which means individuals who do not work or spend time with birds aren’t in danger. Those who do work round birds, together with poultry employees and hunters, ought to take precautions, together with carrying gloves and protecting gear.

Now, amid fears the virus will begin spreading amongst folks and the truth that it continues to devastate farms throughout the nation, US authorities officers are contemplating vaccinating poultry, in response to a report earlier this month by The New York Times. A mass hen flu vaccination marketing campaign focusing on poultry could be a primary within the US, the Times experiences, however some checks on potential poultry vaccines are underway. 

“There are a range of options the United States regularly considers when there is any outbreak that could affect the security and safety of the United States’ food supply,” a spokesperson for the National Security Council informed CNET. “Right now, we are focused on promoting and enhancing high-impact biosafety practices and procedures.”

As lengthy as animals and people dwell, work and collect round one another, there shall be a danger of viruses mutating sufficient to make the soar from species to species. Fortunately, hen flu in people to this point has been uncommon, partially as a result of the virus would not unfold that simply from animals to people, or between people. Recently, two relations contracted hen flu in Cambodia, and one among them died. The CDC mentioned in an early March memo that each of those circumstances seemingly resulted from bird-to-human contact close to the shared family, and that there is no proof of human-to-human unfold proper now. There’s additionally been one human case within the US, in somebody who had direct contact with birds. (This US case additionally is perhaps the results of the virus contaminating the nasal passages, quite than inflicting an precise an infection.) 

Still, some “sporadic” human circumstances of hen flu within the US “would not be surprising,” given the variety of birds which are sick in addition to infections in folks in different nations who’ve had publicity to avian influenza, the CDC mentioned in a November assertion. But the truth that hen flu continues to unfold broadly and expose extra species to the virus — together with mammals — retains the door cracked for the virus to adapt to unfold human to human. If, or when, hen flu begins spreading individual to individual will spell hassle, in response to Dr. Meg Schaeffer, an epidemiologist and the nationwide public well being adviser for SAS Institute, a knowledge analytics agency.

“The concerning factors are that it continues to spread — so that’s one issue, because the more activity you have, the more likelihood there is for the virus to spread from animals to people,” mentioned Schaeffer, who works with public well being information modernization, together with some work with the CDC and the US Department of Agriculture. Even extra troublesome, she mentioned, is that scientists may not be capable of rapidly catch it if it is unfold outdoors the place avian influenza is at present monitored, in individuals who reply to sick poultry, which means: 

“It is likely that that would start to occur before we would know it.” 

Here’s what to learn about hen flu, or avian influenza. 

What is hen flu?

Bird flu, aka avian influenza, is a illness attributable to an infection with influenza kind A viruses. These viruses can flow into amongst birds world wide and have contaminated people in uncommon circumstances, largely those that work immediately with contaminated birds. If the viruses mutate sufficient, the general public well be ing concern is that they could make the soar to unfold amongst people. Bird flu was first detected and managed in 1997, however it reemerged in 2003 and began spreading broadly amongst birds.


The predominant hen flu virus on the planet is H5N1, in response to the CDC. Since 2003, greater than 880 human circumstances of earlier strains of H5N1 have been reported in people. 

Influenza viruses that trigger the hen flu are both “low pathogenic” or “highly pathogenic.” Highly pathogenic hen flu may cause extreme illness or dying in poultry, and it is these circumstances that the USDA is reporting. Both low and extremely pathogenic viruses have triggered delicate to extreme illness in contaminated people. 

The World Health Organization experiences 4 forms of influenza viruses: A, B, C and D. Type A viruses, which happen in each people and completely different sorts of animals, are the most important risk to public well being and may trigger pandemics, the WHO says. The “swine flu” of 2009’s pandemic was attributable to a sort A virus. Seasonal flu viruses in people are attributable to kind A and sort B viruses. 

A group of chickens cooped up together.

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Is it lethal? 

Though human circumstances stay uncommon, about half of earlier H5N1 human infections have resulted in dying, the CDC mentioned. But because the company famous in its April assertion on the human case of hen flu, the present H5N1 seems completely different from earlier strains.

But due to the potential for a critical well being risk, the WHO, CDC and USDA are intently monitoring outbreaks within the US and in different nations. The CDC has mentioned it has “produced a candidate vaccine virus,” if it is wanted, in response to a possible public well being risk.

Where is it within the US? How is it being monitored?

The hen flu has been detected and reported by the USDA in wild and home birds in most US states — 46, as of the CDC’s early November announcement. 

Henry Niman, a biochemist in Pittsburgh, has been monitoring the outbreak (as reported by The New York Times), and his map gives a visible illustration of the outbreak throughout the nation.

The first case was in a wild hen in South Carolina. Other circumstances have been reported in some yard flocks in addition to some poultry farms, the place animals are raised commercially for meals. Any birds of the flocks which have circumstances of avian flu is not going to enter the meals system, the USDA mentioned.

A poultry worker wearing protective gear holds a chicken.A poultry worker wearing protective gear holds a chicken.

Karen Moskowitz/Getty Images

Can folks catch hen flu? Here are the precautions to take

Birds can shed avian influenza virus of their saliva, feces and mucus, in response to the CDC. Humans can get sick by respiration within the virus, or by touching their eyes, nostril or mouth. Most human hen flu circumstances have been reported in individuals who work immediately with birds. 

To keep away from getting sick, keep away from contact with wild birds, do not contact useless or sick birds you see, and keep away from visiting hen markets or farms should you’re touring to a different nation, in response to the CDC. 

Extra precautions or monitoring could also be taken should you work immediately with birds, should you hunt birds or should you’re a well being care employee. If you might have contact with an contaminated hen, contact your native or state well being division. Here’s a listing of native well being departments within the US.

To keep away from contamination from poultry of any variety, be certain that to correctly deal with your poultry and eggs, and totally cook dinner them to 165 levels Fahrenheit, the USDA says, to kill micro organism and viruses. 

You also can report a useless hen to your native well being division or wildlife company, which is able to assist public well being officers observe not solely the hen flu but in addition viruses similar to West Nile virus. Reporting useless birds is perhaps particularly essential should you see multiple of them. 

The data contained on this article is for academic and informational functions solely and isn’t supposed as well being or medical recommendation. Always seek the advice of a doctor or different certified well being supplier concerning any questions you will have a few medical situation or well being goals.

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