While egg prices rise, the deadliest bird flu outbreak in US history continues

While egg prices rise, the deadliest bird flu outbreak in US history continues

While egg prices rise, the deadliest bird flu outbreak in US history continues

While egg prices rise, the deadliest bird flu outbreak in US history continues
Increase / Chicken eggs are laid out at a quarantined farm in the northern Israeli moshav (village) of Margaliot on January 3, 2022.

The ongoing bird flu epidemic in the US is now the longest and deadliest on record. More than 57 million birds were killed by the virus or killed a year ago, and the deadly disorder helped fuel a skyrocketing egg price and a spike in egg smuggling.

Since highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A(H5N1) was first detected in US birds in January 2022, the price of a dozen eggs has jumped from an average of about $1.79 in December 2021 to $4.25 in December 2022. An increase of 137 percent, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Although inflation and supply chain issues partly explain the increase, eggs saw the largest percentage increase of any specific food, according to consumer price index.

And the high prices prompt some at the U.S.-Mexico border to try to smuggle in illegal cartons, which is prohibited. A spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection told NPR this week that people in El Paso, Texas, are buying eggs in Juárez, Mexico because “much cheaper.” Meanwhile, a customs official in San Diego tweeted a reminder amid a spike in egg interceptions that failure to declare such agricultural items at the port of entry can result in fines of up to $10,000.

Bad effects

Still, America’s pain in dairy stores probably pales in comparison to the devastation being wrought on poultry farms. HPAI A(H5N1) has been detected in wild birds in all 50 states, and 47 have reported outbreaks on poultry farms. Far, 731 outbreaks in 371 districts. Late last month, two outbreaks in Weakley County, Tennessee, affected 62,600 chickens.

With the outbreak lasting a year, it is the longest outbreak of bird flu on record in the US. And with 57 million dead birds in 47 states, it is also the deadliest, surpassing the previous record set in 2015 of 50.5 million birds in 21 states.

Although the virus is highly contagious to birds—and often fatal—the risk to humans is low. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that avian influenza A viruses (also known as bird flu viruses) generally do not infect humans, although they occasionally can when humans have close or prolonged unprotected contact with infected birds. Once inside a person, it is even rarer for the virus to pass from person to person.

In the current outbreak, the CDC tracked more than 5,000 people who had been in contact with infected birds, but found only a single case of bird flu in humans. The reported case in Colorado came from a person who worked directly with infected birds and was involved in culling. The person had mild symptoms and recovered.

Fear of the flu

Although the current data are encouraging, virologists and epidemiologists still fear the possibility that influenza viruses, such as bird flu, will mutate and recombine into a virus that can infect humans with pandemic potential. Report published in Eurosurveillance magazine On January 19, he highlighted his concerns. Researchers in Spain documented an outbreak of bird flu among farmed martens on the northwest coast during October of last year. Minks were probably infected through wild seabirds, which at the time had a coinciding wave of H5N1 virus infection. During October, more and more martens became ill, indicating transmission from marten to marten, which led to the destruction of the entire colony of almost 52,000 animals that began at the end of October.

It is significant that the H5N1 virus that infected martens had an unusual mutation that may have enabled it to spread to and among martens. Mammal-to-mammal transmission of avian viruses is noteworthy in itself, but of particular concern in mink, which can act as virus blenders. As the authors of the Spanish report note:

Experimental and field evidence has shown that minks are susceptible and tolerant to both avian and human influenza A virus, leading to the theory that this species could serve as a potential mixing vessel for interspecies transmission among birds, mammals and humans.

As such, the authors say there is a need to “strengthen the culture of biosafety and biosecurity in this farming system and promote the implementation of ad hoc surveillance programs for influenza A viruses and other zoonotic pathogens globally.”

No workers at the mink farm were infected with the H5N1 virus, the authors report. However, they note that the use of face masks was mandatory for all mink farm workers in Spain due to concerns about the spread of SARS-CoV-2. Even after the first detection of the disease on the farm, workers there took precautions in case it was SARS-CoV-2, which included using disposable coveralls, face shields, changing face masks twice a day and frequent hand washing, all from the beginning of October 4.



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