Bird flu found in wild duck in United States and chickens in Burkina Faso

Chickens on grass, one looks into camera
Chickens, photo: Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

The highly pathogenic H5 type of avian influenza has been found in a wild duck who was killed by hunters in South Carolina, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirmed on Friday. 

The USDA said it is determining the exact strain of the virus. In 2020, the H7N3 strain of bird flu was found at a commercial turkey farm in South Carolina.

In 2015, the US government killed around 50 million chickens and turkeys after bird flu outbreaks. When bird flu is detected at a farm, all animals are immediately killed and their bodies are destroyed.  

Bird flu in Burkina Faso
The government of Burkina Faso said in a statement that the highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu was detected at 42 farms. Half a million chickens were either killed by the virus or by authorities, the government said. More than a million boxes of eggs had also been destroyed. 

There are two types of bird flu: one that does not make birds sick, the low pathogenic variant, and one that is fatal, the highly pathogenic variant.

“If we hadn’t had intensive poultry farming, the serious, sickening form of bird flu would never have arisen,” virologist Thijs Kuiken of Erasmus University Rotterdam told Dutch media BNNVARA. 

“Normally, wild birds only carry the low-pathogenic variant. In intensive poultry farming, this mild flu mutated into a serious variant,” Kuiken said. “Years ago, this variant escaped from poultry farms in Asia, and since then, wild birds have also had to deal with it.”

The highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of bird flu have hit many farms in Europe and Asia. Last year governments killed more than 50 million ducks, chickens, geese, and turkeys to try to control the virus. 

“In the long term, we have to realize that the intensive way of raising animals, with a huge number of animals huddled together in one spot, is no longer sustainable for many reasons. If we don’t stop doing that, we will automatically encounter another outbreak of bird flu or a still unknown ‘disease X’,” Kuiken said.

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