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As egg costs soar, the deadliest hen flu outbreak in US historical past drags on

Chicken eggs are disposed of at a quarantined farm in Israel's northern Moshav (village) of Margaliot on January 3, 2022.
Enlarge / Rooster eggs are disposed of at a quarantined farm in Israel’s northern Moshav (village) of Margaliot on January 3, 2022.

The continuing hen flu outbreak within the US is now the longest and deadliest on file. Greater than 57 million birds have been killed by the virus or culled since a yr in the past, and the lethal disruption has helped propel skyrocketing egg costs and a spike in egg smuggling.

Since extremely pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A(H5N1) was first detected in US birds in January 2022, the worth of a carton of a dozen eggs has shot up from a median of about $1.79 in December 2021 to $4.25 in December 2022, a 137 p.c improve, in accordance with information from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Though inflation and provide chain points partly clarify the rise, eggs noticed the most important proportion improve of any particular meals, in accordance with the patron worth index.

And the steep pricing is main some on the US-Mexico border to attempt to smuggle in unlawful cartons, which is prohibited. A US Customs and Border Safety spokesperson instructed NPR this week that individuals in El Paso, Texas, are shopping for eggs in Juárez, Mexico, as a result of they’re “considerably inexpensive.” In the meantime, a customs official in San Diego tweeted a reminder amid an increase in egg interceptions that failure to declare such agriculture gadgets at a port of entry may end up in penalties as much as $10,000.

Foul results

Nonetheless, America’s ache in grocery retailer dairy aisles doubtless pales in comparison with a number of the devastation being reaped on poultry farms. HPAI A(H5N1) has been detected in wild birds in all 50 states, and 47 have reported outbreaks on poultry farms. To date, 731 outbreaks throughout 371 counties. On the finish of final month, two outbreaks in Weakley County, Tennessee, affected 62,600 chickens.

With the outbreak on the one-year mark, it’s the longest hen flu outbreak on US file. And with 57 million birds lifeless throughout 47 states, it is also the deadliest, surpassing the earlier file set in 2015 of fifty.5 million birds in 21 states.

Though the virus is very contagious to birds—and sometimes deadly—the danger to people is low. The Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention notes that the avian influenza Kind A viruses (aka hen flu viruses) usually do not infect people, although they sometimes can when individuals have shut or prolonged unprotected contact with contaminated birds. As soon as in a human, it is even rarer for the virus to leap from human to human.

Within the present outbreak, the CDC has tracked greater than 5,000 individuals who have had contact with contaminated birds, however solely discovered one single case of hen flu in a human. The reported case in Colorado got here from an individual who labored immediately with contaminated birds and was concerned with a cull. The particular person had delicate signs and recovered.

Flu fears

Though the present information is reassuring, virologists and epidemiologists nonetheless worry the potential for flu viruses, equivalent to hen flu, to mutate and recombine right into a human-infecting virus with pandemic potential. A report revealed within the journal Eurosurveillance on January 19 highlighted the priority. Researchers in Spain documented an outbreak of avian flu amongst farmed mink on the northwestern coast throughout October of final yr. The mink had been doubtless contaminated by way of wild seabirds, which had a coinciding wave of an infection with H5N1 viruses on the time. Over the course of October, increasingly more mink fell ailing, suggesting mink-to-mink transmission, which led to the culling of your complete colony of practically 52,000 animals beginning in late October.

Notably, the H5N1 virus infecting the mink had an unusual mutation which will have enabled it to unfold to and among the many mink. Mammal-to-mammal transmission of an avian virus alone is noteworthy, but it surely’s significantly regarding in mink, which may act as viral blenders. Because the authors of the Spanish report observe:

Experimental and area proof have demonstrated that minks are prone and permissive to each avian and human influenza A viruses, resulting in the speculation that this species may function a possible mixing vessel for the interspecies transmission amongst birds, mammals and human.

As such, the authors say it’s essential to “strengthen the tradition of biosafety and biosecurity on this farming system and promote the implementation of advert hoc surveillance applications for influenza A viruses and different zoonotic pathogens at a world stage.”

Not one of the staff on the mink farm turned contaminated with the H5N1 virus, the authors report. Nonetheless, they observe that utilizing face masks was obligatory for all mink farm staff in Spain following issues over the unfold of SARS-CoV-2. And upon the primary detection of an sickness on the farm, the employees there took precautions in case it was SARS-CoV-2, which included utilizing disposable overalls, face shields, face masks altering twice per day, and frequent hand washing, all starting on October 4.



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