The bird flu epidemic has killed more than 100 million birds and seriously threatens to become a human pandemic

The bird flu epidemic has killed more than 100 million birds and seriously threatens to become a human pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 21 million people, has elevated an existential question into concrete immediacy. After COVID-19, when will the next pandemic of a highly deadly nature strike again?

A chicken farm [Photo by Fot. Konrad Łoziński / CC BY 2.0]

The first-ever widespread global epidemic of monkeypox affected several countries on almost every continent. It was as if the world had dodged a bullet when the cases began to subside. Additionally, the outbreak of the extremely deadly Ebola Sudan virus in Uganda threatened the region and beyond as it spread through the densely populated capital of Kampala. These potential crises have appeared much more frequently in recent years, making new pandemics an inescapable risk for the world’s population.

The first new pandemic after COVID-19, which continues to infect billions, may already be in plain sight, but mostly ignored or dismissed by most media and without any political attention.

The largest outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) on record has killed millions of birds since October 2021. As a result of the disease and related culling, over 140 million poultry, including 60 million in North America and 48 million in Europe, have been killed, according to the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH).

Genetic analysis of the H5N1 influenza virus in the current avian pandemic has located it to a clade (family of viruses) circulating among poultry and wild birds on several continents, but most closely related to strains among seabirds Europeans.

The first cases in North America were detected in December 2021 in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, at a bird farm. In February 2022, Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported that black vulture deaths in Hontoon Island State Park were caused by the same virus.

Over the following months, the virus spread to many species of wild birds, commercial poultry, as well as mammals including grizzly bears, red foxes, coyotes, seals and dolphins, as well as a human case confirmed on April 27 by the United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in an incarcerated person in Colorado who had been involved in the slaughter of infected poultry.

In February 2022, the the wall street journal noted that bird flu had affected a chicken farm in Fulton, Ky., and a Tyson Foods chicken processing farm, raising concerns of a repeat of the last major bird flu calamity in 2015.

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