Bird flu has been found in red foxes in France, the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) said on Tuesday. Three foxes were found dead in a nature reserve in Meaux. One of the foxes was collected and tested positive for the highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu virus.
Two weeks ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) expressed concern about the global H5N1 bird flu situation due to the recent rise in cases in birds and mammals and the death of an 11-year-old girl in Cambodia.
In January, a cat was euthanized in France after he was infected with bird flu. The virus has also been detected in mink in Spain, sea lions in Peru, foxes and otters in Britain, and grizzly bears in the United States.
H5N1 is a subtype of the Influenza A virus that is also known as avian or bird flu. It is primarily a disease of birds, but it can also infect other animals and humans who come into close contact with infected birds or their environments.
Birds infected with H5N1 bird flu can get a range of symptoms: coughing, sneezing, nasal, diarrhea, decreased food intake, swelling and discoloration of their head, neck, and eyes and sudden death. When infected with H5N1, they may also appear lethargic and show signs of depression.
In humans, H5N1 can cause severe respiratory illness, which can sometimes lead to death.
The link between H5N1 bird flu and factory farming is primarily related to how commercial birds are raised and managed in large-scale operations.
In these settings, thousands of birds are often kept in close proximity, which can create conditions ideal for spreading disease: viruses like H5N1 can be easily transmitted through bodily fluids, including saliva, feces, and respiratory secretions.
In addition, the high density of birds in factory farms can weaken their immune systems, making them more susceptible to disease. Antibiotics also play a role as they are often used to promote growth and prevent disease in chickens, ducks, turkeys and other farm birds; overuse of these drugs can lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
In the past year, bird flu has been spreading worldwide, killing more than 200 million birds -including healthy birds killed at farms when the virus was detected- sending egg prices through the roof and raising concern among governments about human transmission.