There is a steep price wild birds are paying for our addiction to chicken products.
A new highly pathogenic avian influenza has been spreading in the U.S.; a team of researchers tracked the arrival and progression of the deadly bird flu (H5N1) in North America to determine how this outbreak is different from previous ones and the study was published in the journal Conservation Biology.
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"The data show the progression of highly pathogenic H5N1 as it spread from Eurasia to the U.S. where it was first documented in late 2021. By October 2022, the disease had resulted in 31 reported wild bird mass mortalities, accounting for an estimated 33,504 wild bird detections in the U.S. and Canada. In addition, more than 58 million domestic poultry were infected or had to be culled to limit the spread of infection in the U.S. and 7 million in Canada.
"In 2015, an outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N8 in the U.S. led to the culling of 50 million poultry birds. But the disease was eradicated in North America that same year, largely because it did not seriously impact wild birds, which made containment through culling poultry relatively easy. But H5N1 poses new challenges.
" 'Unlike H5N8, this disease is heavily impacting wild birds,' said Johanna Harvey, a postdoctoral researcher at UMD and lead author of the study. 'It's difficult to estimate how many birds are truly affected across wild populations, but we're seeing dramatic disease impacts in raptors, sea birds and colonial nesting birds. And we now have the highest amount of poultry loss to avian influenza, so this is a worst-case scenario.'"