More than 52.7 animals have died or been killed due to HPAI bird flu, which has spread to 46 regions since February this year, which is causing serious damage to livestock. “I hope this is not unusual for us,” said Richard Webby, director of the World Health Organization’s Collaborating Center for Studies on the Ecology of Influenza in Animals. Here’s what’s happening, and how to protect yourself from bird flu. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss this Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
The plague is spread by wild birds, and it also affects domesticated chickens. “We don’t really know what happens, but it seems like it can grow and spread well in wild birds,” says Webby. “Wild birds are the best way to spread the virus because, of course, they fly everywhere.”
Farmers are forced to kill chickens, turkeys and eggs to prevent the spread of the virus. Ducks also get bird flu, but they usually have no symptoms. “Wild birds can carry HPAI A(H5) viruses without showing any symptoms, but these viruses can cause disease and death in domestic chickens. says the CDC.
Chickens raised for laying eggs are more susceptible to the virus than those raised for meat, experts say. “For whatever reason, turkeys and layer birds are prone to infection,” says Amy Hagerman, assistant professor at Oklahoma State University. “The chicken that most people think of, their chicken favorites, their chicken sandwiches, all of those things haven’t had the same effect.”
Experts say the vaccine doesn’t work, and it’s good for the virus to spread. “One of the biggest challenges is timing vaccinations,” says Hagerman. “Usually you need two doses of the vaccine and then a longer period of time to be effective. If you have a bird that has a very short feed window before they are ready to harvest, this can be very difficult because you also have to allow time for release after vaccination before the birds are harvested.”
It is best to eat chicken and eggs if they are cooked at the right temperature, experts say. “As a reminder, it’s best to eat well-cooked chicken in the United States,” says the CDC. “Proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165˚F kills bacteria and viruses, including HPAI A (H5) viruses.”
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making scientific knowledge and research accessible to the general public. Read more about Ferozan