An outbreak of bird flu in the US is “wiping out everything in numbers we’ve never seen before”, scientists have warned.
The country has previously been hit by the H5N8 strain, which killed 50 million poultry in 2015.
But the more contagious H5N1 strain is causing different problems as it spreads through wild bird populations.
From late 2021 to last October, it killed tens of thousands of wild birds — especially colonial nesting birds, seabirds and birds of prey.
As a result, more than 58 million poultry were infected or had to be culled across the United States—and more than 7 million in Canada.
Professor Jennifer Mullinax of the University of Maryland said the outbreak was “unprecedented”.
She described her university’s findings as an “armed call” to action by government agencies and the agricultural sector, based on data on the current U.S. outbreak and global incidence from 2014 to early 2023.
“We’re all going to have to deal with this together because we can’t afford it,” she said.
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disease can become endemic
Data examined by Professor Mullinax’s team showed that bird flu has become a year-round disease.
Previous outbreaks have typically occurred in autumn and winter, giving farmers time to prepare.
The university’s research, published in the journal Conservation Biology, suggests the U.S. may have to treat bird flu as endemic rather than eradicable.
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Earlier, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that people should remain vigilant Possibility of cross-species transmission of avian influenza to humans.
Human cases have been rare since H5N1 first emerged in 1996, but a recent outbreak detected the disease Infects mammals such as bears, dolphins, and cats.
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the cases “required close monitoring”.
“We have to be prepared for any change in the status quo,” he added.
Avian Influenza Precautions Lifted this week in the UK after just over four months.
The rules make it a legal requirement for farmers to keep animals indoors and follow strict biosecurity measures.