A dead fox has been found infected with bird flu in Japan’s northern Hokkaido region, the environment ministry said on Tuesday. This is the first time in the country avian influenza has been found in a mammal. Akane Shoji, an environment ministry official, said that the fox probably ate an infected bird.
In November, the Hokkaido Prefecture raised its alert level on bird flu, running regular checks on bird carcasses. On Monday, it reported five crows who tested positive for bird flu. The ministry official said they would monitor transmissions of the virus from birds to mammals.
Intensive farming and bird flu
Industrial animal factories are the reason bird flu has become deadlier and spreading faster through Europe and Asia, environmental organizations ad experts said.
“There [industrial animal farms], the conditions are ideal for the proliferation of these viruses,” environmental organization Greenpeace said. “Large farms are a source of infection for these birds.”
Dutch virologist Thijs Kuiken also said that the highly pathogenic, sickening form of bird flu (H5N1) emerged due to intensive bird farming: “Normally, wild birds only carry the low-pathogenic variant. In intensive poultry farming, this mild flu mutated into a serious variant.”
“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,” Kuiken added.
The Animal Reader is a small independent animal news platform based in the Netherlands. Sign up for our weekly newsletter.