"The Deadliest Bird Flu Outbreak in History" is Now in America. Here's How to Stay Safe.
More than 52.7 animals have died or been culled as a result of HPAI bird flu, which has spread to 46 states since February of this year, wreaking havoc on farm flocks. "I'm hopeful that this is not the new normal for us," says Richard Webby, director of the World Health Organization's Collaborating Center for Studies on the Ecology of Influenza in Animals. Here is what's happening, and how to stay safe from bird flu. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Wild Birds Vs Farmed
The outbreak is being spread by wild birds, and impacting farmed poultry. "We don't know exactly what it is about it, but it does seem just to be able to grow and transmit better in wild birds," Webby says. "Wild birds are the perfect mechanism to spread a virus because they, of course, fly everywhere."
Birds Being Culled
Farmers have been forced to cull chickens, turkeys and eggs in order to prevent the virus from spreading further. Ducks also carry avian influenza, but often with no symptoms. "Wild birds can carry HPAI A(H5) viruses without showing symptoms, but these viruses can cause illness and death in domestic poultry," says the CDC.
Meat Vs Eggs
Poultry raised to lay eggs are more susceptible to the virus than those raised for meat, experts say. "For whatever reason, turkeys and layer birds tend to be more susceptible to the virus," says Amy Hagerman, assistant professor at Oklahoma State University. "The chicken that most people think of, their chicken tenders, their chicken sandwiches, all of those things haven't tended to have the same kinds of impact."
Is There a Vaccine?
Experts say a vaccine is not practical, and it's best to let the virus become endemic. "One of the big complications is timing on a vaccine," Hagerman says. "Generally you need two doses of a vaccine and then a length of time to achieve full effectiveness. If you have a bird that has a very short feeding window before it's ready for harvest, that can be a lot more challenging because you also need to allow the withdrawal period after the vaccine before the bird is harvested."
How To Stay Safe From Bird Flu
It's fine to eat poultry and eggs if they are cooked to the correct temperature, experts say. "As a reminder, it is safe to eat properly handled and cooked poultry in the United States," says the CDC. "The proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165˚F kills bacteria and viruses, including HPAI A(H5) viruses."