(WatchDogReport.org) – Scientists are closely monitoring the new Avian Flu (H5N1) outbreak. Typically, the virus attacks domesticated birds, such as chickens or ducks, and spreads quickly through areas where the birds are crowded together. The recent spike in prices for eggs and poultry was due to H5N1 wiping out around 90% of production flocks in the U.S.
Researchers at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital have been following the movement and progression of the virus. The virus has developed new genes as it has spread and is now attacking wild birds and mammals. Hundreds of thousands of wild birds have now died from this new form of the virus. Scientists can confirm that the virus has spread through five continents, affecting hundreds of species, and is now called a “panzootic” or an animal pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has confirmed that the current risk of H5N1 spreading to humans is extremely low but not impossible, considering the virus’s ability to evolve. The threat is higher for those working in direct contact with infected birds. Proper CDC guidelines should be followed, and individuals should be monitored for 10 days after exposure.
Measures are underway to attempt to combat H5N1. Tracking the virus will hopefully give poultry farmers enough warning to ramp up their biosecurity. It’s more challenging to track the virus in the wild bird population, but there are programs that allow citizens to help, such as iNaturalist. Birdwatchers use the program to report sick or dead birds. The information is then passed along to the appropriate agencies to be used in tracking the location and evolution of the virus.
Backyard flocks are not immune but tend to be more resilient. Chickens raised for mass production have a tight genetic code that allows the virus to attack and spread more easily, killing large numbers quickly. Ordinary backyard flocks tend to have more genetic variance, making them more resistant and resilient.
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