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Bird flu possible pandemic - outbreaks in 40 countries last year - Jan 2022

Huge increase in bird flu outbreaks in the past 30 years
Outbreaks had been just a few per decade in the winter - now many outbreaks all year long.
The flu is passed from a wild bird to farmed birds - who currently have very poor immunity
The flu is then passed from between farmed birds and to humans who touch the birds.
Half of the infected humans died.
There has been no human-to-human transmission - so far
Might the bird flu virus mutate or combine with the human flu virus?
Are we close to a really bad bird flu pandemic?
Founder of VitaminDWiki believes that it is vital to restore the immune systems of poultry and humans
Suspect a 10% chance of a bird flu pandemic killing 10% of humans on earth sometime in the next 10 years
Adding Vitamin D to the poultry would restore immune systems at a cost of perhaps 1 cent per pound of meat
   7 billion pounds of poultry X 1 cent = $70 million/year
This Vitamin D might

  • Prevent a global pandemic - that might kill 600 million people (10% of humans)
    • Cost of vitamin D per life saved ~$70 million for Vitamin D/ 600 million lived = 12 cents
  • Stop the killing of 100 million infected poultry per year
  • Improve the health of humans consuming the fortified meat


How to Survive a Pandemic - Dr. Greger 2020

Excellent $10 book about survivng a possible bird flu pandemic.
The book is one of the few to have changed my life

  • "As the world grapples with the devastating impact of COVID-19, Dr Michael Greger reveals not only what we can do to protect ourselves and our loved ones during a pandemic, but also what human society must rectify to reduce the likelihood of even worse catastrophes in the future.
  • "From tuberculosis to bird flu and HIV to coronavirus, these infectious diseases share a common origin story: human interaction with animals." Otherwise known as zoonotic diseases for their passage from animals to humans, these pathogens – both pre-existing ones and those newly identified – emerge and re-emerge throughout history, sparking epidemics and pandemics that have resulted in millions of deaths around the world."
  • "How did these diseases come about? And what – if anything – can we do to stop them and their fatal march into our countries, our homes, and our bodies? In How to Survive a Pandemic, Dr Michael Greger, physician and internationally-recognized expert on public health issues, delves into the origins of some of the deadliest pathogens the world has ever seen. Tracing their evolution from the past until today, Dr Greger spotlights emerging flu and coronaviruses as he examines where these pathogens originated, as well as the underlying conditions and significant human role that have exacerbated their lethal influence to large, and even global, levels."

What is the Difference Between Bird Flu and Covid-19? - Jan 2022

https://www.talktomira.com/post/what-is-the-difference-between-bird-flu-and-covid-19|URL]


Bird Flu Is Back in the US. No One Knows What Comes Next - Jan 24, 2022

Wired

IN THE FIRST days of the new year, on the marshy coastal edge of South Carolina’s Lowcountry, a hunter shot an American widgeon, a rusty-fronted duck with a pale beak and a brilliant green stripe. This was not a big deal; the state’s duck hunting season runs from Thanksgiving through the end of January. Neither was what happened next: Before taking it home, the hunter let a wildlife biologist affiliated with a government program swab the carcass for lab analysis.

But what happened after that was a big deal indeed. After the sample went through its routine check at Clemson University, it made an unusual second stop at a federal lab halfway across the country, in Iowa. The news of what was in the sample percolated through a pyramid of agencies, and on January 14 the US Department of Agriculture revealed why it had attracted so much scrutiny: The South Carolina duck was carrying the Asian strain of H5N1 avian influenza, the first sighting of that pathogen in the continental US in years.

But not the last. Just a few days later, the USDA disclosed that two more birds shot by hunters also carried the same pathogen: a teal, shot in the same South Carolina county, and a northern shoveler shot in the far northeast corner of North Carolina, about 400 miles away. The virus in all three was what is known as highly pathogenic—meaning it could cause fast-moving, fatal disease in other bird species, such as poultry, though it was not making the ducks ill.

Three birds out of the millions that American hunters shoot each year might seem like nothing—but the findings have sent a ripple of disquiet through the community of scientists who monitor animal diseases. In 2015, that same strain of flu landed in the Midwest’s turkey industry and caused the largest animal-disease outbreak ever seen in the US, killing or causing the destruction of more than 50 million birds and costing the US economy more than $3 billion. Human-health experts are uneasy as well. Since 2003, that flu has sickened at least 863 people across the world and killed more than half of them. Other avian flu strains have made hundreds more people ill. Before Covid arrived, avian flu was considered the disease most likely to cause a transnational outbreak.

It is far too soon to say whether the arrival of this virus in the US is a blip, an imminent danger to agriculture, or a zoonotic pathogen probing for a path to attack humanity. But it is a reminder that Covid is not the only disease with pandemic potential, and of how easy it is to lose focus when it comes to other possible threats. The possibility of a human- or animal-origin strain of flu swamping the world once seemed so imminent that back in 2005 the White House wrote a national strategy for it. But researchers say the surveillance schemes that would pick up its movement have since been allowed to drift.

“In wildlife disease surveillance, we’re always chasing a crisis,” says David Stallknecht, director of the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, a research institute housed at the University of Georgia. “And as soon as the crisis is over, the interest goes down. It’s difficult to keep going long-term. People are here to do the work, but the money isn't there to support it.”

To understand the importance of those three ducks and the virus they were carrying, we need to take a quick tour through Flu School. Lesson One: The flu virus family tree is vast and sprawling; it contains types—A, B, C, D—and subtypes, designated with Hs and Ns. (Those are short for proteins that let the virus infect cells.) Just within the As, there are almost 200 subtypes; a few affect humans, but almost all of them can infect birds.

Lesson Two: For a long time, scientists thought humans were in little danger from all those other flu strains. That assumption was shattered in 1997, when an avian influenza, H5N1, jumped species in Hong Kong and infected 18 people, killing six of them. To shut it down, the local government slaughtered every chicken in the territory, denying the virus a host. That worked for a few years, but in 2003 H5N1 started to move across the world again, and it has been moving ever since.

Lesson Three: Avian flu can be dangerous to people, but it threatens some birds too. Waterbirds, chiefly ducks, carry it without illness, but it makes chickens sick. Here again, there are subcategories: Avian flu can be low-pathogenic, meaning that it makes birds mildly ill and slows down egg production. Or it can be highly pathogenic, or high-path: a fast-moving infection so vicious that it can kill an entire flock in two days. (A prominent poultry researcher once called it “chicken Ebola.”)

To sum all that up (there will not be a quiz): The flu found in the Carolinas is an H5N1, meaning it is of the subtype that normally infects birds but in the past has sickened people. It is a high-path variety, the kind that can wipe out domesticated flocks. It belongs to a strain related to that first species-crossing jump in 1997. And, to make matters worse, it represents just one instance of a remarkable amount of highly pathogenic H5N1 showing up in the world right now.

Last year, the World Organization for Animal Health (known by its French acronym, OIE) estimated that between May 1 and November 1, 41 countries experienced outbreaks of highly pathogenic bird flu, with 16,000 isolations of the virus reported just in October. Fifteen countries also reported outbreaks between October and December.

Occasional isolations of avian flu in wild birds are not unusual, but last fall high-path H5N1 began erupting in the United Kingdom with extraordinary intensity. Since October and into this year, the virus has been found in wild species, including swans, geese, shorebirds, and birds of prey. But it has also invaded poultry farms, primarily in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. By January, more than 1 million chickens and other birds had been destroyed to stop it from spreading. In December, the UK’s chief veterinary officer called the occurrence of bird flu there “phenomenal,” saying the strain had spread to the largest number of farm properties ever seen.

At almost the same moment, Dutch authorities were ordering the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of poultry on farms in the country. In the Czech Republic, more than 100,000 hens died of avian flu on an egg farm, and another 100,000 birds and about 1 million eggs were destroyed to stop the virus from spreading further. In France, farmers feared the virus would invade the duck-raising southwest, the home of foie gras. Last week, the agriculture ministry ordered 2.5 million birds killed. In Italy, more than 4 million poultry died or were slaughtered between October and December. And the Friedrich Loeffler Institute, the animal-disease research unit of the German government, said at the end of December that Europe was experiencing “the strongest avian influenza epidemic ever,” with cases reaching as far north as the Faroe Islands and as far south as Portugal.

Those slaughter numbers should make the case that the flu is not only a threat to animal welfare, but an engine of economic damage as well. Rabobank, a financial services and analysis firm based in the Netherlands, has already predicted that these massive culls, layered on top of pandemic-fueled freight problems and rising feed costs, could inflate food prices this year.

For the most part, birds stick to specific north-south migratory pathways and don’t fly laterally around the globe. So to scientists in North America, outbreaks of bird flu in Europe were a cause for worry, but not immediate alarm. But in December and again in January, high-path H5N1 was found in farms in Newfoundland, at the top of the migratory flyway that sweeps down the US coast. That is the same flyway that crosses over the Carolinas, where the virus-carrying ducks were caught—and also over the more than 1 billion chickens grown each year in Georgia, the most poultry-dense state in the US.

Because this flu is highly pathogenic, the challenge is that there is no time for mitigation once it arrives in a flock. As Midwest turkey producers experienced in 2015, it blows up into a destructive epidemic overnight. That requires poultry farmers to harden their defenses now—and while that seems like an obvious task, it requires precision and cost in an industry that runs on thin margins and speed. Carol Cardona, a wildlife veterinarian and chair of avian health at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, likens it to learning to live under Covid: Every daily action requires a calculation of risk and takes a little more patience than you can easily summon.

“It’s the same for growing poultry,” she says. “How do we feed them without introducing a little bit of risk? How do we care for them? In normal times, when we don't have a threat, you can be more efficient in how you do things. But now things have to change. You have to be perfect all the time. That’s a lot of stress.”

Scientists who monitor wildlife fret that there is something else going on in this wave of flu. Wild waterbirds are accidental transport vehicles for the virus, but rarely victims. They pick it up and transfer it to other birds in ponds and wetlands at the ends of their migration journeys and then carry it with them, unharmed, once they return to the skies. But in Israel, where more than a half-million poultry have died or been slaughtered, the first sign of trouble was a mass die-off of thousands of wild cranes in a wetland that lies directly under a migration route. The European Food Safety Authority has identified deaths from flu in at least 80 other species of wild birds, leaving scientists to wonder whether bird flu has evolved into a further threat.

“The catastrophic issue economically is poultry,” Stallknecht says. “But we also have to be concerned with wildlife health. And there are some populations of shorebirds that are already not in good shape, so we need to be monitoring them also.”

There’s also evidence these new waves of bird flu have been leaking into humans. In the first week of January, UK health authorities revealed that a man in Devon who kept ducks as pets had the country’s first-ever human case of H5N1 bird flu. The ducks were all slaughtered; the man was reported to be quarantined and surviving the infection but lonely and missing his birds. In November, the WHO said it has been monitoring a slow surge in human infections in China caused by a known but less common bird flu subtype, H5N6. By the end of 2021, there had been 26 people infected, one of whom died. And in February a year ago, the Russian government revealed that seven poultry farm workers fell ill (and recovered) from yet another subtype, H5N8.

Other bird-specific strains have been surging into humans as well. The Chinese government disclosed last June that a man who had no known contact with poultry developed an infection with a flu strain never before seen in humans, H10N3, and that he was hospitalized but recovered. Since 2013, China has recorded more than 1,600 human cases of yet another strain, H7N9.

Though there have been notifications of those outbreaks—the regulations governing the WHO require countries to send immediate notification of high-path avian flu—they have not all included details about genetic sequences or spread. Researchers are hungry for answers. “The question is: What’s new?” says Daniel Lucey, an infectious-disease physician and senior scholar at Georgetown University’s ​​O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law. “The quantity of outbreaks is massive, but has there been a change in qualitative risk? Have the sequences changed so the virus is more likely to infect humans? Can we document person-to-person spread?”

A further concern lurks behind this bloom of bird flu. Until now, biologists have assumed the danger is seasonal, triggered by the movement of waterbirds as they migrate: If there are no visiting birds overhead, or on shores or in ponds, they can’t spread a virus to local birds or people. But researchers are beginning to wonder whether climate change is interfering with migration patterns. The typical pattern for bird flu infections has been for them to begin during the fall migrations and then continue through the winter and into spring. But in Germany last year, scientists were able to identify H5 viruses in wild birds throughout the summer, a first.

It’s difficult for scientists to make the case for year-round surveillance and better financial support when they can’t say whether this wave of flu is a brief aberration or the first moments of a sustained emergency. But the world wouldn’t be facing that uncertainty if the capacity for surveillance and analysis had been built after the massive 2015 outbreak, or any of the ones before that. We didn’t do it earlier, so the time to start is now.


Factory farms of disease: how industrial chicken production is breeding the next pandemic - Oct 2021

At least eight types of bird flu, all of which can kill humans, are circulating around the world’s factory farms – and they could be worse than Covid-19
IMAGE: Chickens at a farm in Hefei, China. Huge farms help spread antibiotic-resistant bacteria, with virologists warning of variants spilling over to humans. Photograph: AFP/Getty

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About this content

John Vidal

One day last December, 101,000 chickens at a gigantic farm near the city of Astrakhan in southern Russia started to collapse and die. Tests by the state research centre showed that a relatively new strain of lethal avian flu known as H5N8 was circulating, and within days 900,000 birds at the Vladimirskaya plant were hurriedly slaughtered to prevent an epidemic.

Avian flu is the world’s other ongoing pandemic and H5N8 is just one strain that has torn through thousands of chicken, duck and turkey flocks across nearly 50 countries including Britain in recent years and shows no sign of stopping.
 
But the Astrakhan incident was different. When 150 workers at the farm were tested, five women and two men were found to have the disease, albeit mildly. It was the first time that H5N8 had been known to jump from birds to humans.

IMAGE: A civet cat on a wildlife farm in Tonglu, Zhejiang province. Thousands of the animals were slaughtered in China as suspected spreaders of the Sars virus. Photograph: John Footy/EPA

The World Health Organization (WHO) was alerted but, this being at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, little attention was paid even when Anna Popova, chief consumer adviser to the Russian Federation, went on TV to warn “with a degree of probability” that human-to-human transmission of H5N8 would evolve soon and that work should start immediately on developing a vaccine.

Global attention is fixed on the origins of Covid-19, either in nature or from a laboratory, but eight or more variants of avian flu, all of which are able to infect and kill humans and are potentially more severe than Covid-19, now regularly rattle around the world’s factory farms barely noticed by governments.

We are seeing an unprecedented explosion in outbreaks of new bird flu viruses - Dr Michael Greger


There have been no further reports of human H5N8 infections in 2021, but concern last week turned to China, where another type of avian flu known as H5N6 has infected 48 people since it was first identified in 2014. Most cases have been linked to people working with farmed birds, but there has been a spike in recent weeks and more than half of all the people infected have died, suggesting that H5N6 is gathering pace, mutating and extremely dangerous.

WHO and Chinese virologists have been worried enough to call on governments to increase their vigilance. “The likelihood of human-to-human spread is low but wider geographical surveillance in the China affected areas and nearby areas is urgently required to better understand the risk and the recent increase of spillover to humans,” said a WHO Pacific-region spokesperson in a statement.

A crane reflected in water at Shanghai zoo. Though wild birds are blamed for spreading disease, one virologist says: ‘Blaming migratory waterfowl … is no longer a tenable position.’ Photograph: Eugene Hoshiko/AP

Earlier this month, China’s Centre for Disease Control CDC identified several mutations in two recent H5N6 cases. The spread of the H5N6 virus is now a “serious threat” to the poultry industry and human health, said Gao Fu, CDC director, and Shi Weifeng, dean of public health at Shandong First Medical University.

“The zoonotic potential of AIVs avian influenza viruses warrants continuous, vigilant monitoring to avert further spillovers that could result in disastrous pandemics,” they say.

Factory farming and disease

The WHO suspects, but has no proof, that Covid-19 is linked to the intensive breeding of animals in south-east Asia’s many barely regulated wildlife farms. Major outbreaks over the past 30 years including Q fever in the Netherlands and highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreaks have been linked with intensive livestock farming.

Governments and the £150bn-a-year poultry and livestock industries emphasise how intensive farming is generally extremely safe and now essential for providing fast-growing populations with protein, but scientific evidence shows that stressful, crowded conditions drive the emergence and spread of many infectious diseases, and act as an “epidemiological bridge” between wildlife and human infections.

Covid and farm animals: nine pandemics that changed the world

Read more

UN bodies, academics and epidemiologists recognise the link between the emergence of highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses and increasingly intensive poultry farming.

According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO): “Avian influenza viruses are evolving into a large, diverse virus gene pool … A pathogen may turn into a hyper-virulent disease agent; in monocultures involving mass rearing of genetically identical animals that are selected for high feed conversion, an emerging hyper-virulent pathogen will rapidly spread within a flock or herd.”

Wild birds are routinely blamed by governments and industry for spreading avian flu along migratory routes, but evidence is mounting that intensive farms are potential “mixing pots” for new, deadly viruses.

“Blaming migratory waterfowl … is clearly no longer a tenable position,” says Rob Wallace, an American virologist who argues that the new strains of flu emerging are adapting to industrial poultry production. “Influenza’s infiltration into industrial livestock and poultry is so complete that these farms now act as their own reservoirs of disease,” he says. “They are their own source.”

A duck farm in Zhangzhou, Fujian province, where 400,000 ducks a week were being slaughtered when H7N9 bird flu hit China’s poultry market. Photograph: AFP/Getty

With more than 20 billion chickens and nearly 700 million pigs being farmed at any one time, Wallace says the chances of new flu strains and variants emerging and spilling over to humans are high.

He is backed by Sam Sheppard, a biologist at Bath University, who says overuse of antibiotics, overcrowding and the genetic similarity between animals provide ideal conditions for many bacteria, viruses and other pathogens to merge, mutate, spread and then jump into humans.

Sheppard researches how keeping animals penned together triggers genetic changes in common bugs such as campylobacter, which are now widespread in poultry, pigs and cattle. “These first emerged in the 20th century, coinciding with large increases in the number of farmed cattle. The bugs are now resistant to antibiotics as a result of overuse of medicine,” he says.

Nor is it just poultry and pigs. The emergence of respiratory diseases such as Mers in camels, coronaviruses in mink farms and BSE in cattle suggests that the intensive breeding of any animal increases the risks of infection.

A laboratory at the Centre of Disease Control in Beijing. ‘Avian influenza viruses are evolving into a large, diverse virus gene pool,’ says one UN agency. Photograph: AFP/Getty

The next pandemic

Marius Gilbert, an epidemiologist at the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium, and others have shown how bird flu is linked to the rapid intensification of poultry farming, which is now making bird flu viruses more dangerous.

Public health experts have long warned about the dangers of industrial farming but since Covid the stakes have become higher as the full costs of a modern pandemic are seen, says medical doctor and historian Michael Greger, author of the book Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching.

Greger argues that there have been three eras of human disease: first, when we started to domesticate animals about 10,000 years ago and were infected with their diseases, such as measles and chickenpox; then in the 18th and 19th centuries, when the Industrial Revolution led to epidemics of diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer; and now, because of the agricultural intensification that is leading to zoonotic, or animal-borne, diseases such as bird flu, salmonella, Mers, Nipah and Covid-19.

“In evolutionary terms, rearing poultry, cattle and pigs in high-intensity, crowded, confined, entirely unnatural conditions may be the most profound alteration of the human-animal relationship in 10,000 years,” he says

“We are seeing an unprecedented explosion in outbreaks of new bird flu viruses, which historically have presented the greatest pandemic risk and certainly have the potential to be worse than Covid.”

Could gene editing chickens prevent future pandemics?

Read more

Gilbert says it is not just factory farming that leads to dangerous avian flu, but changes humans are making to the wider environment. “Most viruses which circulate in wild birds are of low danger and cause only mild effects. But from time to time they enter the poultry system, where they go through evolutionary change, mostly linked to the conditions in which the animals are farmed. We have seen low-pathogen viruses gain pathogenicity in farms.”

This can set up a vicious circle where a virus mutates on a farm and then spills back into the wild bird population where it can spread further via migratory pathways, he says. “Every time people are infected there is a danger that viruses become more dangerous or transmissible.”


Not seen in 5 years: USDA issues alert over bird flu concerns - Jan 24, 2022

Fox*News

  • "This same strain of flu decimated part of the U.S. turkey industry in 2015, leaving more than 50 million birds dead in what the USDA has called the “most serious animal health disease incident” in the country’s history."
  • "The agency says those handling birds should wear gloves and work in the open air in order to help contain spread. Anyone cooking eggs or poultry at home is advised to make sure the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees before eating."

New bird flu variants "difficult and riskier" - Jan 18, 2022

Poultry world

  • {Due to a high number of variants, the current wave of bird flu seen in Asia and Europe has a greater risk of spreading to humans, cautions the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)."
  • "OIE Director General, Monique Eloit, told Reuters in a recent interview: "This time the situation is more difficult and riskier because we see more variants emerge, which make them harder to follow."
  • "She added that the risk is that it mutates or mixes with a human flu virus that can be transmitted between humans and then “suddenly it takes on a new dimension".
  • "Italy, it said, was the worst hit in Europe with 285 outbreaks and nearly 4 million birds culled"

Europe faces largest bird flu epidemic ever - Jan 4, 2022

Poultry World

  • "Since October, the virus has been detected 675 times in wild birds, and 534 outbreaks have been reported in domestic (backyard and commercial) animals. In addition, the virus has also been detected in mammals in several countries: in foxes in the Netherlands and Finland, in seals in Germany and Sweden, and in otters in Finland."

Bird (avian) flu is an enveloped virus

A brief introduction to the avian influenza virus - 2008 10.1007/978-1-59745-279-3_1 PDF $50

  • "The avian influenza (AI) virus is type A influenza isolated from and adapted to an avian host. Type A influenza belongs to the orthomyxovirdae virus family, is enveloped, and is pleiomorphic with a size ranging from 80-120 nm (reviewed in [1])."
  • cited 82 times as of Jan 2022

Enveloped virus fought by Vitamin D

Vitamin D can inhibit enveloped virus (e.g. Corona, Herpes, Zoster, Epstein, Hepatitis, RSV) – March 2011


H5N1 mutated in 1997, it can now be transmitted to humans

The next pandemic: H5N1 and H7N9 influenza? March 2021

  • "The most striking aspect of H5N1 is its high mortality rate, observed from surveillance of sporadic outbreaks between 1997-2019. Of the 861 confirmed cases, 455 people have died making the mortality rate 53%
  • "In contrast, H7N9 has a lower-case fatality rate of 40%, in which two thirds of deaths are over the age of 50,"

China reports first human case of H10N3 bird flu - June 2021

Reuters


Israel and many others having bird flu outbreaks late 2021

Bird flu outbreak in Israel kills more than 5,200 cranes, with mass culling of poultry underway Washington Post - Dec 28, 2021

  • 'Other countries, including Britain, China, Norway and South Korea, have also reported major or higher-than-unusual H5N1 outbreaks in recent months"
  • "Crowded and unregulated chicken coops are a “ticking bomb” for developing diseases, Agriculture Minister Oded Feror said in a statement at the time."
  • "Israeli media outlets reported that the mass culling of chickens has created a shortage of between 15 million and 20 million eggs a month. About 200 million eggs are consumed monthly in Israel."

Bird Flu FAQ

WebMD - 2021?

  • "Scientists have identified more than a dozen different strains, or variants, of bird flu. H5N1, one of the deadliest strains for humans, has caused 456 bird flu deaths since 2003, according to the World Health Organization. "
  • "In Indonesia in 2006, bird flu spread to eight members of one family. Seven of them died. It's not clear exactly how this happened. Family members likely had similar contacts with infected birds. They may also have shared genes that made them particularly susceptible to the virus. However, casual contact does not seem to be involved."
  • "Is There a Bird Flu Vaccine? Yes, but you can't make an appointment to get it. The FDA approved the first vaccine to prevent human infection with one strain of the bird flu (H5N1) in 2007. But it’s not been made commercially available to the general public"


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