Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Bird Flu Still Ruffling Feathers in Midwest USA

            Since the tail end up Humans and Viruses II, bird flu has still been on the wing.  6.7 million chickens and turkeys have died since March. 5.3 million more chickens are still scheduled to be culled in an attempt to contain the virus. H5N2 tends to be a death sentence for turkeys, which die almost 100% of the time, whereas the mortality rate is lower (about 60%) in chickens. Thankfully, the virus hasn’t been known to infect humans, but the USDA is still being extra careful. Many of the deceased birds have been part of government-sponsored culling. The virus hasn’t had a significant impact in poultry prices yet. However, despite all of the biosecurity efforts, it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
            The virus may be spreading by wind-carried droppings and feathers. If this is the case, it poses a formidable risk to wild bird populations. The CDC suspects that at temperatures of at least 70F, the virus may not spread as well. The USDA is working on a vaccine for chickens and turkeys; it has passed some testing, but isn’t ready for commercial use yet. The added cost from vaccinating birds is probably smaller than having to kill an entire barn and starting over again. At least birds can’t launch an anti-vaccine campaign… right?


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