World News

The Avian Flu: A Constant Threat

The avian flu is a name given to a type of influenza virus that is specialized for transmission among birds. The name avian flu almost always refers to influenza type A, which does have a history of infecting humans, but there are specific strains of the virus that are specialized and are only effective against specific types of animals. Some strains, such as the H5N8 virus, are only effective among birds; however, there are also strains such as the H5N8 variant, which has had a history of infecting people in the past.

The avian flu is much like the disease that affects people, as it transmits from infected individuals to healthy ones, creating a ripple effect if not accounted for properly. However, the avian flu is even more dangerous to birds, not only due to its high mortality rate but due to its form of transmission. Migratory birds can often get infected by the flu in a compromised area and travel thousands of miles to other parts of the world, making the virus almost impossible to contain in the wild. This is why so many parts of the world are affected at once whenever there is an avian flu outbreak.

Chickens and other birds are swabbed to determine whether they are infected by avian influenza.

What’s going on right now?

This virus and its variants are almost constantly in effect in various parts of the world. It was in Russia during October, and parts of Germany and Japan in early November. Now, the virus is spreading westward in Europe, and traces are being found in Korean farms as well. As late as last week in the United Kingdom, swans in Cumbria, Blackpool, and Worcestershire were found dying from an infection of the H5N8 virus (Barkham, 2020). Experts say that the strain was spread across Europe due to migratory birds, but Dr. Ruth Cromie, a researcher at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, clarified that while migratory birds are often seen as “evil vectors,” the virus originates from poultry farms. These wild birds are simply used as scapegoats for poor or negligent biosecurity measures from these farms. As of late November, hundreds of thousands of birds across three prefectures in Japan are set for culling, and the United Kingdom has declared an avian influenza prevention zone all across England, Scotland, and Wales.

This population of chickens was culled in 2016 in Israel. Entire barns are filled with foam to suffocate chickens and other poultry. (Photo: Roee Shpernik)

Conclusion

Between 2004 and 2005, more than 100 million chickens were culled in Asia in order to contain the spread of the virus. The last outbreak of this scale happened between 2016 and 2017, when more than half a million poultry were slaughtered in Germany, and millions more in Asia. The avian flu is a highly contagious disease that can affect people in specific cases, not to mention the negative effects it has on the global economy. The most unfortunate part is that the disease is largely caused by poultry farms, meaning that it wouldn’t have such a large effect if it weren’t for us, people. Despite our knowledge of the virus and its adverse effects, the avian flu will most likely continue to propagate and affect wild and domesticated birds across the globe.

Categories: World News

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