Avian Influenza; How is it Influencing Our Country?

Aaronson Zheng, Staff Writer

In Europe of 2020, the avian influenza began to proliferate throughout the country. On February 8, 2022, the United States of America received its first reported case of the virus. Mainly affecting bird species, the avian influenza was transmitted through bird migration from Europe into the United States. The number one concern for our country is not our people’s health, but for our poultry industry.


In the year 2005, the U.S. government was unsettled with the newly rediscovered avian influenza. Due to it being transmitted through birds, the United States could do nothing against the disease. Fast forward to 2022 when the virus was rediscovered in the states, our poultry industry was immediately impacted in just a few days. Poultry is a major source of revenue for the country, and having to kill hundreds of thousands of chickens and turkeys negatively impacts our economy. The avian influenza rarely gets humans sick. 


What is the current situation of our country? Well, other than a single human case reported, poultry is taking heavy economical damage. As of February 8, 2023, an estimated six thousand, one hundred eleven wild birds are infected within all fifty states. Even worse, there is an estimated 58,349,754 poultry infected over forty seven states and three hundred seventy six counties with seven hundred forty six reported cases; and rising. Additionally, shipping and connections concerning poultry have also been paused. In total, we are expected to lose between three and six billion dollars, if not higher, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and NCIRD. 


The avian influenza could further mutate as it has already three times! If there were to be a mutation in which human infection odds greatly increase, the human population would be at risk. However, annual flu vaccinations can greatly reduce the effect of the avian influenza, therefore the world will not be plunged into quarantine like we were from the Covid-19 pandemic. 


Additionally, as of recently in the year 2023, the avian influenza has been detected in wild mammals such as dogs, foxes, bears, and even dolphins. Lately, more than a thousand total mammals have been spotted deceased, with even more testing positive. This means this virus is slowly mutating. Humans being mammals too can cause some tension regarding mutations. It won’t be long until human cases start exponentially rising. Hopefully that won’t be anytime soon.


How can we identify avian influenza in both birds and humans? In wild and domesticated birds, symptoms may include lack of energy, lack of appetite, lack of coordination, purple discoloration, swelling, reduced egg-production, soft eggshells, and misshapen eggs. With a fatality rate of 100%, chickens, turkeys, and other such birds are at serious risk. In humans, symptoms may include muscle soreness, fevers, runny-nose, coughing, headache, and sore throat.


What preventative measures can we take to help stop the spread of the avian influenza? Culling, the selective slaughtering of products as they are sick and dying, is used in domesticated birds like chickens. According to the World Organisation of Animal Health (WOAH), culling has greatly increased hygiene and bio-security. A more expensive method is the use of vaccines which can reduce spread or kill the influenza in all. With about 9.3 billion chickens in the United States, and vaccination costs of about $0.12, this is a lot more expensive than one would think (Approximately $1,160,000,000). Sanitation is the most important measure to take with or without a viral outbreak. Prepare food in a sanitary manner as we know that food can carry pathogens that harm humans. Avoid seemingly ill or dead birds on the road. Get seasonal flu vaccinations. In the end, the decision lies with you, and so the question is whether or not you’d contribute.