Bird Flu Prevention

Bird Flu (Avian Influenza or H5N1 virus)


A wave of Bird Flu (Avian Influenza or H5N1 virus) is crossing the country, infecting both birds and bovine (dairy and beef cattle). So far, there is no evidence that the virus is being spread from mammal to mammal, only from birds or cattle. Poultry (chickens, turkey, ducks) and wild birds like Canadian Geese, pigeons, starlings, and sparrows may all be vectors or spreaders of this disease. Humans in China and Hong Kong have contacted the disease but it is not common in the USA. Milk pasteurization has been shown to be an effective way to keep the virus from infecting humans. 

The Bird Flu virus has infected poultry and wild flocks of birds in the USA, Europe, Africa, and Asia. About 15 million poultry birds have died from Bird Flu in 1.5 years. More than 193 million birds have been culled to stop spreading the virus. Now Bird Flu has also been found in bovines or dairy cattle and even beef cattle. Usually milk production drops by 25% or more. Bird flu has been found in several poultry and dairy farms in Ohio and Michigan, so it nearby. 

The Bird flu has even been found in scavengers like mink, otters, fox, grizzly bears, seals, and dolphins. The list also includes dogs and cats. Most of these animals eat birds with infected carcasses. The risk is that the virus may mutate and infect other animals or humans. So far, humans are rarely infected unless they contact infected animals. People who spend a lot of time handling, grooming and in some cases even kissing their birds are at high risk. Do not over handle birds or make pets of them if possible. Do not eat raw bird meat which might contain the virus. The virus thrives in bird’s airways and so far, human and mammal airways are not good hosts for the virus. However, the more exposure humans and mammals have to the virus, it may eventually mutate and evolve to cause harm to mammals and humans. So far, that has not happened and it may take years or even decades for numerous small genetic DNA virus changes to occur before infection becomes common in people. 

Vaccines are being developed for birds and to prevent human infection. Human vaccines against bird flu are being developed, but like the Covid vaccine, the amount of immunity a vaccine gives to protect people is not perfect and currently gives relatively low immunity to the virus. 

Currently the best defense so far has been ramped up surveillance of poultry flocks and mainly dairy operations. Swine or pigs farms are also being checked because a pig’s physiology is more closely tied to human beings. In the USA, 4 humans have contacted the bird flu and 3 were associated with dairy cows. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says there are 92 USA dairy farms in 12 states that are infected with Bird Flu. About 97 million USA poultry have been infected with the bird flu. 

Bird Flu prevention is the best policy. Here are some tips. First, wash your hands frequently for at least 15 seconds with soap, especially after contact with birds or livestock. Around birds, stay free of bird droppings (feces, saliva, or bird mucus). Use hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol. Stay away from sick or strange acting birds or mammals that may be sick. 

Second, wear protective equipment like gloves, facemask, eye protection and even N95 respirators if working around animals that may be sick with bird flu. Many feed companies and even farm sprayers and fertilizer spreaders are now using protective baths on their equipment and especially tires to avoid spreading the bird flu disease from farm to farm. 

 For the average human, just avoid contact with birds especially poultry like live chickens, turkey, and water fowl like ducks and geese. Stay away from, discourage, or reduce populations of pigeons, starlings, sparrows, Canadian geese and other wild birds around your farm. Do not touch or go near sick or dead birds and avoid contact with bird droppings. 

Avoid eating raw or unprocessed poultry meat, eggs, or unpasteurized milk. Fully cooked food like eggs and poultry are safe to eat. If working around birds or dairy cattle, change your clothes often and only work with healthy animals. Sick animals generally show signs of weakness, coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, diarrhea, and loss of appetite along with reduced egg or milk production. Most farm workers have to shower and change clothes at the end of each shift now for disease control and security reasons to avoid spreading diseases. Stay cool, stay safe.