Global Bird Flu Crisis: 250 Million Birds Have Been Culled Due To The Deadly Outbreak

A new study from the University of Hong Kong has shown that over 250 million birds worldwide have had to be culled due to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) since the disease’s resurgence in 2020-2021.

This subtype of the H5N1 variant has become increasingly infectious to wild birds, and over this period of 2020-2021, 100,000 wild birds of 400 different species have died. Avian influenza also infected and killed domestic animals such as cats and dogs, as well as prompted mass cullings in Finland and South Africa over the past few months.

Data from the study also showed that the epicenter of the outbreaks shifted from Asia, where the virus historically started, to Europe, as well as Africa, with more extreme outbreaks predicted this coming November.

According to the World Organization for Animal Health, by the end of 2022, sixty-seven countries across five continents had reported HPAI outbreaks.

Co-author of the paper, Dr. Vijaykrishna Dhanasekaran, explains the worrying trend of how it can spread and especially its contagious nature to humans. “There is a perpetual threat of the virus jumping to humans. This is mainly due to the virus’s ability to evolve rapidly. It can acquire mutations that help it better attach to receptors on human cells, or it can acquire the ability to transmit via aerosols.”

FOUR PAWS, the global animal welfare organization said, “This report is extremely worrying and should not be taken lightly. HPAI is a looming pandemic for which the world clearly isn’t ready for. This reinforces the need for a coordinated global health response. The World Health Organization Member States are currently negotiating the ‘Pandemic Treaty’ and the need to get this over the line in 2024 is essential,” said Nina Jamal, FOUR PAWS’ Head of Pandemics.

“We also need a drastic reduction of the intensive animal farming sector, which contributes significantly to the spread and mutation of pathogens, increasing the risk of dangerous mutations that can eventually become transmissible among humans. What we must see globally is policy initiatives that are aligned with the One Health approach. Anything less could potentially lead to a worse public health crisis than the one caused by COVID-19.”

This year, there have also been reports highlighting the avian flu outbreak in the United States, which has resulted in approximately 40 million animals dying and economic costs of $2.5 to $3 billion. The report also highlights these significant economic losses not only in the private sector but in the public sector as well.

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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