Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of chicken meat, with annual sales of nearly $10bn (£8bn). Has declared a six-month animal health emergency after several cases of avian flu were found in wild birds. The cases of bird flu were found far away from Brazil’s main areas of production in the south of the country. Seven cases have also been reported in Espirito Santo state, with another discovered in Rio de Janeiro state.
Flu cases were found
However, outbreaks in commercial flocks elsewhere have sometimes been observed to follow the discovery of avian flu cases in wild birds. The cases were found far away from Brazil’s main areas of production in the south of the country. The finding of a case on a farm often triggers a cull of a large number of birds. And can sometimes prompt trade restrictions from other countries. The health emergency has been declared across the whole country for the next 180 days as a precaution.
Scientists remain unsure why this outbreak is proving so much worse than others, but the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) has reported “devastating impacts on animal health and welfare”.
What WHO says
The World Health Organization (WHO) says the further spread of the H5N1 virus will have to be monitored closely to see whether it is mutating into a form which can spread amongst humans. Scientists remain unsure why this outbreak is proving so much worse than others, but the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) has reported “devastating impacts on animal health and welfare”.
“Cases occur due to coming into close contact with infected birds.”
What ‘Bird flu’ is ?
Bird flu is an infectious disease of poultry and wild birds that has been around for a century. It usually flares up autumn before fading away in spring and summer. As well as birds, some wild mammals – such as seals, otters, wild dogs and foxes – are now catching the disease.
Is bird flu a risk to humans?
The World Health Organization (WHO) says 870 humans have been infected with avian flu over the past 20 years, and 457 have died. These cases occurred when humans came into close contact with infected birds.
The first known human cases occurred in Hong Kong in 1997, resulting in six deaths. Deadly outbreaks among poultry in several countries in eastern and central Asia between 2003 and mid-2005. Were accompanied by more than 100 human cases, about half of them fatal. The World Health Organization says the further spread of the H5N1 virus will have to be monitored closely. To see whether it is mutating into a form which can spread amongst humans.
Is bird flu passing to mammals?
In the UK, a number of wild mammals such as otters, foxes, dolphins and seals have died after being infected with H5N1 bird flu. Probably from feeding on wild birds which died from the disease.
Local authorities are telling members of the public to keep their dogs away from the carcasses of dead wild animals such as seals.
H5N1 bird flu has also been found in grizzly bears in the US. Captive mink in Canada and wild dogs in a zoo in the UK. Now you have a question that what is this H5N1 virus? Let’s understand below.
The H5N1 virus, which is the most prevalent strain now, was first reported in China in 1996.
It can spread through entire flocks of domestic birds within a matter of days. Through birds’ droppings and saliva, or through contaminated feed and water.
The World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) says there has been “An unprecedented number of outbreaks” of bird flu reported in regions across the world since the outbreak began in October 2021.
- These have caused “devastating impacts on animal health and welfare” and “led to an alarming rate of wild bird die-offs”.
- The virus has been detected in dozens of species, including buzzards, golden eagles, gannets and gulls.
- “The current virus has affected 80 different bird species,” says Professor Munir Iqbal. The head of the Avian Influenza Virus (AIV) group at the Pirbright Institute.
- More than 40% of the skua population in Scotland and thousands of Dalmatian pelicans in Greece have died.
- The UK’s National Trust says between 30,000 and 50,000 wild birds may have died of bird flu on the UK’s Farne Islands.
However, other countries avoid this because it is hard to judge which birds have been made immune and which have not. And so the meat and eggs from vaccinated flocks cannot be sold abroad. But china has been vaccinating its domestic poultry flocks.
“There are strict export controls when a country decides to vaccinate,” says Dr Maurice Pitesky of the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis.
Despite the commercial drawbacks of vaccinating poultry, governments in France, the Netherlands and the US have begun trials of vaccines as the first step of a lengthy process to try and bring the bird flu epidemic under control.
It may be that the virus has mutated to enable it to spread more readily from bird to bird, or to hang around longer in the environment. A specific protective vaccine for this virus remains to be developed. Studies suggest that some antiviral drugs that work against human influenza may be effective in treating bird flu in humans.