Bird flu, caused by the H5N1 avian influenza virus, devastated the United States in 2020 by killing over 50 million birds. But the potential for this outbreak to turn into a pandemic is higher now than ever, as a recent report warns of a new “wild bird-adapted” version of the virus. Genetic Evolution in Action: Forest Lizards Adapt to City Life
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that gene-swapping between poultry and wild bird viruses has created this new, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) strain. Wild birds like ducks are the primary transmitters of the virus, spreading it through their feces, feathers, or direct contact with poultry. The virus has also jumped from wild birds to bears, foxes, otters, and seals.
This bird flu outbreak is not limited to the US, as a large mink fur farm in Spain reported a massive outbreak in October of last year. Experts believe that wild birds initially transmitted H5N1 to the farm, but once there, the virus spread from mink to mink. Michelle Wille, a wild bird virus researcher from Australia, warns, “This outbreak signals the very real potential for the emergence of mammal-to-mammal transmission.”
As the threat of this bird flu spilling over into mammalian species becomes more imminent, it’s crucial to stay informed and take necessary precautions. Protect yourself and others from potential pandemic by staying vigilant and informed about the latest developments in this avian flu outbreak.