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The bird flu outbreak is taking an ominous turn

The bird flu outbreak is taking an ominous turn

 


The constant attack of H5N1 is not only important for poultry and wildlife, but also for people. Bird flu has long been considered the animal disease most likely to evolve into a global human pandemic, and even after the onslaught of SARS-CoV-2, many scientists are still That’s how I feel.

The H5N1 subtype was first shed from birds to humans in 1997 in Hong Kong. Eighteen people fell ill, six of which he died. Although small, the mortality rate was 33% for him. Since then, H5N1 variants have regularly infected people, causing 868 cases and 457 deaths by 2022, according to the World Health Organization. While these figures represent a mortality rate of 52%, they also indicate that the virus was not adapted to spread easily from person to person and cause a large outbreak.

Yet scientists are constantly monitoring viruses to find situations that facilitate these adaptations.Example: Spanish and Italian scientists disclosed last month In October 2022, an H5N1 mutant was reported to have infected mink on fur farms in northwestern Spain. The virus may have been transmitted to a single mink by wild birds or through chicken carcasses used as fodder. However, once on the farm, it made subtle adaptations that allowed it to spread from one mink to another. .

The occurrence was unsettling and continued twice. Viruses began to adapt not only to mammals, but also to certain mammals that are directly related to humans. Minks belong to the same family as ferrets. develop symptoms Same progression as humans.

But there is a third reason why mink outbreaks are notable. This is so common in animal husbandry that it goes largely unnoticed. Spanish farms were no place for minks to gamble freely while raising furs. Instead, it was an intensive farm where animals were kept in cages. Most of the affected poultry farms in the United States were also intensive confinement farms, although the implications differ depending on the type of bird. A large metal barn for the broilers, a barn for laying eggs, possibly an indoor cage, and a coop with mesh curtains for the turkeys.

Operating in isolation doesn’t necessarily mean farms are vulnerable to infection, but once a virus enters the premises, confined so many animals can become infected at once. will be exposed to This puts many animals at risk. Some of the poultry farms wiped out by the flu last year lost more than 5 million birds.It also gives the virus a large host of mutations. If very large farms pose a risk of amplifying the virus, perhaps keeping them small should be part of virus defense.

“When there is public discussion about tackling zoonotic diseases, it quickly shifts to vaccination, preparedness and biosecurity, but no one discusses tackling root causes,” says a political economist. says Jan Datkiewicz, Brooks McCormick Jr. Animal Visiting Scholar at Harvard Law School. Law and Policy Clinic. “We don’t discuss cancer prevention with tobacco products without quitting smoking. But when it comes to zoonotic risk, we debate curbing animal production.” I am very passive about it.”

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