UK authorities have reported an unprecedented jump in cases of bird flu earlier in the season, in both domestic and wild birds, which has led to severe restrictions on poultry farmers across the country.
The government has confirmed an outbreak of 40 bird flu cases among domestic fowl and other captive birds this year, leading to the culling of about 500,000 birds, Chief Veterinarian Christine Middlemes said Thursday. There have been 24 outbreaks of bird flu throughout the 2020-21 season, which occurred during the spring.
“I am very concerned about what is happening,” Middlemise told the BBC. “That’s a really high number for this time of year for anything we’ve been through before, because of the high level of infection in wild migratory birds. So it’s very concerning because these birds will stay with us through the winter until early spring and the risk of infection remains.”
UK authorities are looking for cases of bird flu worldwide because it is spread by migratory birds and can be devastating to poultry producers. Experts estimate that outbreaks during the 2014-2015 and 2016-2017 seasons cost UK poultry producers around 125 million pounds ($165 million).
Although the risks to humans are low, bird flu can affect people in rare cases.
To control the spread of disease, poultry producers must kill all birds with confirmed infection. In addition, they were required to keep all birds in or under nets to prevent them from coming into contact with wild birds and to implement strict hygiene measures.
While the number of birds slaughtered so far this season appears large, it is relatively small compared to the number of birds on UK farms. Between early August and late October, poultry producers slaughter about 20 million birds a week, according to the latest government statistics.
“In terms of the impact on the food supply, it’s actually a relatively small number,” Middlemiss said of the flu-related culling.
Middlemès said the situation in Britain was part of a larger trend in Europe, where authorities are seeing frequent bird flu outbreaks.
Although researchers don’t know the reasons for this trend, one theory is that climate change has altered the migration patterns of wild birds, she said.
“Birds migrate to northern Russia during the summer and mingle with other birds and other global flight paths there and exchange viruses, so it’s entirely plausible that with climate change and trajectory changes, different mixtures occur,” Middlemis said. . But this has not been fully investigated.”
“Writer. Analyst. Avid travel maven. Devoted twitter guru. Unapologetic pop culture expert. General zombie enthusiast.”