Thursday, May 9

A bird flu primer: What you should know and do

A strain of bird flu that started spreading in 2020 is still changing both locally and globally in the US. If you're unsure about what this implies, knowing the fundamentals of bird flu can be helpful. These include what it is, how it spreads, whether or not foods are safe, and protection advice. As scientists discover more, additional details will become available, so stay tuned.

1. How does bird flu spread, and what is its definition?
Avian flu, sometimes known as bird flu,is a disease that develops spontaneously. Type A influenza viruses frequently propagate among wild birds, much like some flu viruses do among humans. The H5N1 virus strain is now in circulation and is named after two proteins found on its surface.

The bird flu is extremely contagious. Shore birds like plovers and sandpipers, as well as wild water birds like ducks, geese, and gulls, are frequently the first to contract the infection. The viruses are expelled in their feces, mucus, and saliva and are carried in their intestines and respiratory tract. Domestic fowl, including ducks, turkeys, and chickens, are easily infected by wild birds.

Ducks are among the bird species that can transmit the illness without showing symptoms. Bird flues are more likely to sicken and even kill domestic flocks. But not every bird flu virus is equally dangerous.
  • In domestic poultry, low-pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) may result in no symptoms at all or in moderate symptoms like fewer eggs or ruffled feathers.
  • Poultry infected with highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has higher rates of mortality and more severe disease. As of right now, the H5N1 virus is classified as an HPAI.

2. Can people contract the avian flu?

Yes, however, it doesn't generally work like this.

Flu viruses have the potential to spread from their initial hosts, birds, to humans and other animals through mutation. As of this writing, there have been two documented cases of bird flu in humans in the United States since 2022.

The mouth, nose, or eyes can all be entry points for the infection. One could breathe in viral part 4. What are the experts' concerns regarding the avian flu outbreak?

It may seem strange that bird flu has been the subject of so much news coverage and alarm recently. Bird flu has been around for a while, after all. It has long been recognized to occasionally infect animals other than birds, such as humans.

However, there are a few reasons why the present outbreak is distinct and concerning:
For instance, that are in the form of dust, tiny aerosolized particles, or droplets in the air. Or they could come into contact with a virus-contaminated surface and then touch their nose or eyes. Human bird flu usually manifests as fever, runny nose, and body aches, just like seasonal flu.

3. Which animals are impacted by the avian flu?
The animals afflicted by the current H5NI bird flu epidemic are surprisingly numerous and include:

Wildlife, including dairy cows in nine states as of this writing, chickens, ducks, geese, and other domestic and commercial fowl in 48 states and more than 500 countries. Wild creatures like foxes, skunks, and raccoons; some domestic animals like farm cats; and marine species like seals, sea lions, and even dolphins.

4. What are the experts' concerns regarding the bird flu outbreak?
It may seem strange that bird flu has been the subject of so much news coverage and alarm recently. Bird flu has been around for a while, after all. It has long been recognized to occasionally infect animals other than birds, such as humans.

However, there are a few reasons why the present outbreak is distinct and concerning:

Quick and expansive spread. Numerous sub-Saharan African nations, the US, Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and even Antarctica have all reported cases of the virus.

There are numerous afflicted species. Previously unaffected species—including those found in our food chain—have been impacted.

Economic implications. There could be a significant financial impact on farmers, agriculture-related businesses, and the economy of the affected countries if a significant number of dairy and beef cows, as well as poultry, become unwell or need to be slaughtered in order to manage outbreaks. The grocery store may charge more as a result of this.

Possibility of death. Since 2003, severe bird flu viruses have caused H5N1 illnesses in around 900 individuals across 23 countries. Of these documented incidents, over half were deadly. Remember that the arithmetic is not simple. Lethality of bird flu is probably overstated because many more human cases are probably out there, but those who had little or no symptoms or were not tested were not counted.

New mutations. It's unlikely, but not impossible: The H5N1 avian flu could become the next human pandemic if mutations allow for effective person-to-person transmission.

There are opportunities for exposure. The more humans are exposed to bird flu, the greater the likelihood that the virus will mutate to make it easier to transfer to humans, even though there have only been two recorded cases of human infections in the US in recent years, both of which involved individuals who worked with animals.

5. Is the remainder of our food supply, including milk, beef, and poultry, safe?
Food safety is emphasized by public health experts.

However, it makes sense that since it was found that this outbreak has, for the first time, extended from birds to dairy cows, anxiety has been running high. Even more concerning? A study discovered that 20% of commercially accessible milk in the US contained traces of bird flu DNA, which is not the same as an active virus.

Thus, there is no proof that the avian flu present in pasteurized milk, beef, or other everyday foods may infect humans. Research indicates that regular pasteurization would eliminate any live avian flu virus that might inadvertently enter the milk supply. The virus was not detected in ground beef in the early testing.

Of course, you could stay away from foods and drinks that come from animals infected with bird flu if you are extremely worried. For instance, you may switch to almond or oat milk, even though there isn't yet any strong scientific evidence to support this.

6. What happens if you own pets or work with animals?
Pets seldom contract bird flu. Although this is fantastic news, there is a chance that your dogs will come into contact with animals that are sick with bird flu if they consume or play with dead birds. Therefore, limiting your pet's exposure to potentially sick animals is the safest course of action.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise taking preventative measures to reduce your risk of contracting bird flu if you hunt or work with animals, particularly poultry or birds.

7. How else can you ensure your safety?
The CDC advises people to take the following precautions to prevent contracting the avian flu:

Keep pets away from sick or dead animals and avoid coming into contact with them.

Steer clear of animal excrement that has been exposed to bird droppings or contamination, as this is often the case on farms.

Food that is uncooked should not be prepared or consumed.

Avoid consuming raw milk (unpasteurized), raw milk cheese, and undercooked or raw foods originating from animals that may be infected with the bird flu.

Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when working around sick or deceased animals or their excrement, such as safety goggles, gloves, and a N95 face mask.

As of right now, there is insufficient data to justify more drastic preventive measures, including a complete plant-based diet.

8. Is there any positive bird flu news?
Even with all of the alarming information on bird flu, there may not be much of a risk to human health from this current outbreak. Mutations in virus strains can make them less lethal or less effective at spreading. In an attempt to stop the transmission of bird flu to people, more dairy cattle are being tested before being transported over state boundaries, and sick or exposed animals are being removed from the food chain.

Additionally, there is more positive news:

It seems that some birds are becoming immune to the virus. This may lessen the likelihood that birds and other animals will continue to spread.

It might be feasible to create a vaccine to protect cattle from the bird flu, though it's not certain if this strategy will be effective.

Genetic testing indicates that existing antiviral medications may be able to treat humans if the virus does manage to transfer to humans.

No evidence of human-to-human transmission has been found thus far. The likelihood of the H5N1 avian flu turning into the next pandemic has decreased as a result.

Additionally, scientists are developing human vaccinations against bird flu using virus strains that closely resemble those causing the present outbreak in case human infections with the bird flu do become more widespread.

9. How concerned about bird flu should you be?
Even though there is still a lot we don't know, one thing is clear: farmers and medical professionals will have difficulties keeping ahead of the bird flu spread as it continues to evolve. Public health specialists now feel that there is little risk to the general public's health from the avian flu.

Thus, there's no need to get alarmed about the avian flu. However, it's a good idea to use common sense to protect yourself and keep up with relevant news.

Visit the CDC website for up-to-date information in the United States.

Photo by Pixabay


  1. It is said that flu will exterminate human race, and I think it will be so. Maybe not the garden variety flu, but still - flu.

  2. This is very informative and interesting topic, i learned a lot from this post.

    <a href="http://www.itsjulieann.com”>Julie Ann Lozada Blog</a>

  3. Very useful post. Thanks for sharing.

  4. An interesting post I don't give much thought to such things

  5. Gracias siempre hay que cuidarse. Te mando un beso.


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