Bird Flu, The Next Dangerous Pandemic?

Bird flu has killed more than ninety million poultry in the U.S. alone which must be putting upward pressure on prices. Could there be a pandemic?

But the big worry about Bird Flu is the possibility that it could eventually migrate to other species than chickens and that is now happening.

About ten thousand wild birds are known to have been killed by this variant of Bird Flu and, of course, that only includes the discovered and tested dead birds.

The spread to wild birds is concerning from an ecological standpoint especially since two cicada groups are beginning to hatch from multi year existence underground.

Birds are the only critters that can help clean up what is projected to be a massive influx of dead insects since the cicada only live a few weeks while they breed.

Bird flu the next dangerous pandemic? Image by Enrique from Pixabay
Bird flu the next dangerous pandemic? Image by Enrique from Pixabay

Cattle and Humans

Now for the bad news.

Cattle are beginning to die from “Bird Flu,” nearly 40 known so far.

Some humans have also become infected and died.

Bird Flu is an extremely dangerous form of influenza and it is thought that, if discovered almost immediately, some antiviral drugs MAY be helpful.

“The mortality rate for bird flu in humans is over 50%. From January 1, 2003 to March 28, 2024, 141 out of 254 cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H5N1) virus were fatal, resulting in a case fatality rate (CFR) of 56%.” Google search AI summary for “morbidity mortality Bird Flu.”

You may have heard about a viral infection known as Bird Flu, it is one of a number of diseases known by the H and N designations, this particular one is H5N1 (more below).

Common field grasshopper. Image by Ted Erski from Pixabay
Common field grasshopper. Image by Ted Erski from Pixabay

Food Supply

You may see reports of contaminated milk products and it is important to know that while that tells scientists how widespread Bird Flu is in cattle, these are totally dead, inactive, and safe virus fragments. (You may take that as reassuring or not depending on just how confident you are on government reports about something that could cause massive food shortages if people were to boycott milk.)

A word of caution, although the milk supply is currently safe (but remember humans are the only adult mammals who consume milk and it is, despite advertisements, not particularly necessary for adults) that is likely due only to nearly universal pasteurization in the U.S.

If you are concerned about this you should avoid the rare farms that still legally sell unpasteurized milk.

Could it be a Pandemic?

What Does H5N1 Avian Influenza / Bird Flu Mean?

“Avian influenza (AI) viruses are classified by a combination of two groups of proteins: hemagglutinin or ‘H’ proteins, of which there are 16 (H1 to H16), and neuraminidase or ‘N’ proteins, of which there are nine (N1 to N9)”

https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/what-meaning-numbers-next-h-and-n-avian-influenza-designations#:~:text=Environmental%20Health-,What%20is%20the%20meaning%20of%20the%20numbers%20next%20to%20the,nine%20(N1%20to%20N9).

“HPAIV A(H5N1) is highly infectious for a number of bird species, including most species of domestic poultry [1]. Unlike most other avian influenza viruses, this virus has also infected mammals, including cats, pigs and tigers, and has shown to be able to transmit to humans. However, the virus remains poorly adapted to humans, and transmission from birds to humans is a rare event [2].

Zoonotic Transmission

Since the first detection of zoonotic transmission of HPAI A(H5N1), limited clusters of human cases have occurred but no sustained human-to-human transmission has been observed but showed. Zoonotic transmission to humans from infected birds occurs either directly or through environmental contamination. Hence, almost all human infections have been related to close contact with infected or sick birds or their faecal products in domestic settings, e.g. in ‘wet markets’ in Asia or in backyard farming [3].

The circulation of HPAI A(H5N1) in bird populations in different regions of the world has contributed to the emergence of different virus clades [4].”

https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/zoonotic-influenza/facts/factsheet-h5n1#:~:text=Highly%20pathogenic%20avian%20influenza%20virus,infection%20in%20birds%20and%20humans.

Bird Flu Update WARNING New Virus Transmits Human to Human