Avian Flu, Which Continues to Ravage Poultry Farms, Now Spreading Between Mammals
Avian flu has killed hundreds of millions of egg-laying birds, as the pandemic spreads to 5 continents. The virus has devastated poultry populations in North America, South America, Asia Europe and Africa, despite heat waves and extreme cold. Farmers and industry experts say bird flu is here to stay for the foreseeable future, as it is now a year-round problem. Beyond the threat to the food supply, health officials are closely watching a new development; For the first time, bird flu is spreading from mammal to mammal. Previously the virus was only known to be transmitted through direct contact with birds or through contact with feces, saliva or contaminated surfaces. Scientists confirmed that the Avian Flu has mutated to jump between mammals, raising concerns that it one day could become contagious to humans. The virus’s ability to infect humans is currently limited. Fewer than 10 human infections have been reported since December 2021, and most of these cases have involved people who work or live with poultry. However, new mutations mark a big step in the virus’s evolution. “It’s when it starts to spread from one mammal to the next mammal to the next mammal, it’s in those environments where we think it’s most likely that it will pick up these changes that allow us to switch hosts, and that’s why we get concerned,” said Richard Webby, an infectious disease researcher at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, and director of WHO’s Collaborating Centre for Studies on the Ecology of Influenza in Animals and Birds. For now, the direct health risk to humans remains low. Experts are closely monitoring the virus’s evolution and movement to protect animal and human health.