Experts say it’s been a record season for bird flu, with the deadliest illness outbreak among birds in the United States. While it’s not considered a serious threat to human health, this latest strain is causing some concern.
We’ve all felt the impact of this record outbreak in higher egg prices at the grocery store.
Over 58 million birds have died directly from bird flu or had to be killed because of exposure to infected birds. Those numbers are what have some experts worried.
The risk to humans remains low, but the latest bird flu outbreak has already killed a record number of poultry.
“Which is raising the red flag and causing alarm among researchers, public health, and clinical investigators about the possibility of seeing more cases in humans,” said Mayo Clinic Director of Clinical Virology Matthew Binnicker.
According to the CDC, there have been more than 6,300 known cases of wild birds in all 50 states, but there are probably many more unknown.
In 47 states, there have been multiple outbreaks among poultry.
The United States Department of Agriculture says some noncommercial backyard flocks have also been infected.
“As the virus infects more birds, it may mutate,” Binnicker said.
Binnicker says another concern about the strain is that it’s infecting not only birds but also some mammals.
“Including seals, mink, fox, and bears being identified to be infected with this strain,” Binnicker said.
The virus spreads through direct contact with an infected animal. To prevent exposure, stay away from dead birds.
“If you see a bird that has died on your grounds on your property, don’t go up and handle the bird because what we’re seeing is that in the few cases of avian influenza in humans, that has been the route,” Binnicker said.
The USDA has been working for years on a bird flu vaccine for potential emergency use in animals. The University of Pennsylvania is also working on a vaccine candidate that could be used in humans if the virus began circulating among people.
The CDC has assessed the pandemic risk as “Moderate” if the virus were to mutate to a version that could spread easily from person to person.
What’s important right now is to take precautions to limit human exposure to sick birds. The world health organization is also monitoring the situation closely.