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CHICAGO, March 4 (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported an outbreak of a highly lethal type of bird flu in a commercial flock of chickens being raised for meat in Stoddard County, Missouri, on Friday.
The outbreak was confirmed as the H5N1 strain of avian flu in a flock of about 240,000 broiler chickens in the southeastern Missouri county, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said.
Over the past month, highly lethal bird flu cases have been confirmed at 10 commercial chicken and turkey farms in four states, triggering export restrictions for U.S. poultry products. [nL1N2UY30W]Report ad
In February, a flock of about 240,000 chickens owned by Tyson Foods Inc (TSN.N) was culled after testing positive in nearby Fulton County, Kentucky, approximately 65 miles (105 km) east of the latest outbreak in Missouri. read more
In response to the outbreaks, U.S. poultry producers are tightening safety measures in an attempt to curb the spread of the disease in top poultry and egg producing states. read moreReport ad
Outbreaks were also confirmed recently in backyard flocks in Iowa, the top U.S.-egg producing state, and Connecticut. Wild birds are believed to be spreading the virus, after dozens tested positive along the U.S. East Coast. read more
French police set up checkpoints on roads into Paris, stopping more than 500 vehicles from heading to the protest, but dozens were able to get through. Tear gas was fired, and several protesters were detained as some demonstrators climbed on their vehicles in the middle of the road.
A man walks through tear gas on the Place Charles De Gaulle in Paris Feb. 12, 2022, as convoys of protesters, “Convoi de la Liberte,” arrived in the French capital. (Sameer Al-Doumy/AFP via Getty Images)
The chaos was a response to the vaccination pass required by the French government for people to enter many indoor public venues, including restaurants. As in Canada, those restrictions have seen significant backlash from those claiming they are unnecessary and overly restrictive.
The Parisian protesters honked at onlookers, waved French flags and shouted “Freedom,” The Associated Press reported.
Protests have been going on for months in France, often resulting in clashes with police, but had been waning recently. Protesters were given a boost from the convoy in Canada, where truckers have snarled traffic at three border crossings over the Canadian government’s strict vaccine mandates.
Protesters hold placards at a demonstration in Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Police moved in on demonstrators on the Ambassador Bridge connecting Windsor, Ontario, to Detroit, Michigan, though some have vowed to keep up the protests. Some demonstrators remained on the bridge overnight despite an emergency order demanding they reopen the bridge and allow traffic to pass. Others exited the bridge, obeying law enforcement’s demand that they move their vehicles.
Similar protests are expected in the coming days in multiple U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, prompting concern among U.S. government officials. President Biden recently spoke to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the protests in Canada, which have slowed supply chains and transportation routes between the two countries.
The White House has said DHS forces are working with California Highway Patrol, the Los Angeles Police Department, state and local authorities, as well as “extensive air and maritime security resources” to counter any protests.
A demonstrator kicks at a tear gas grenade during a protest on the Champs-Élysées avenue, Saturday, Feb.12, 2022, in Paris. (AP Photo/Adrienne Surprenant)
Inspired protests have also been seen in New Zealand and the Netherlands, where dozens of trucks and vehicles blocked an entrance to The Hague, with some carrying a banner that said, “Love & Freedom, no dictatorship” in Dutch.
Fox News’ Audrey Conklin and Caitlin McFall, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
“There will be consequences, and they will be severe,” Mr Ford said on Friday morning.
“To those who have attempted to disrupt our way of life by targeting our lifeline for food, fuel and goods across our borders, to those trying to force a political agenda through disruption, intimidation and chaos, my message to you is this,” Mr Ford said.
“Your right to make a political statement does not outweigh the right of hundreds of thousands of workers to earn their living.”
The country-wide protests against Covid-19 vaccine mandates are poised to enter their third weekend.
A so-called “Freedom Convoy” was organised last month in response to the introduction of a new rule that all truckers must be vaccinated to cross the US-Canada border, or quarantine upon their return. The protest has since grown into a broader challenge to all Covid health restrictions.
The vast majority of Canadian truckers are vaccinated and trucking associations have distanced themselves from the protests, noting most drivers are still working.
Thousands of demonstrators have congregated in central Ottawa, others have blocked the Ambassador Bridge and a handful of other border crossings.
Authorities have warned members of the public to avoid Emerson, a small border town in Manitoba, where trucks and farm equipment are currently clogging the US border.
The trade disruption has been estimated to cost some C$380m ($300m; £221m) each day.
Smaller protests have been held in Toronto and Quebec City, as well as near provincial legislatures in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and British Columbia.
The mayors of Ontario’s biggest cities issued a joint statement on Monday, condemning the “irresponsible and damaging” actions of the protesters, calling for all governments to bring the demonstrations to a peaceful end.
US officials have urged Canada’s government to use its federal powers to end the blockade – especially of the Ambassador Bridge – which has already hit the automobile industry either side of the border.
The White House said this week that US officials had been engaged with their Canadian counterparts to help resume trade along the border.
Premier Ford’s Friday announcement marks the first state of emergency in the province since April, when Ontario implemented its third emergency order over Covid-19 transmission.
In recent days Mr Ford had faced criticism for not doing more to stop the convoy blockade in Ottawa.
And while he repeatedly the denounced the weeks-long demonstration on Friday, he also indicated the province would be moving to lift existing Covid-19 restrictions, including the vaccine “passport” system which requires proof of vaccination to enter indoor public settings like gyms and restaurants.
Experts have been hard-pressed with evaluating the risk of the BA.2 subvariant, stumped by why it has become dominant in some countries while failing to take off in othersShare in FacebookShare in TwitterSend in e-mailSend in e-mailSaveSave article to reading listZen ReadPrint article
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People wear protective face masks in Tel Aviv on Sunday.Credit: Hadas ParushIdo EfratiGet email notification for articles from Ido EfratiFollowFeb. 1, 2022 2:46 AMhttps://trinitymedia.ai/player/trinity-player.php?pageURL=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.haaretz.com%2Fscience-and-health%2Fomicron-s-new-subvariant-a-more-infectious-more-puzzling-covid-strain-1.10580797&subscriber=0&isDarkMode=0&unitId=2900001646&userId=327b1799-56b7-42ee-9159-e922d1c143eb&isLegacyBrowser=false&version=20220201_4b701d2057380b695444cb1e63318932d990edae&useCFCDN=0&themeId=190
The number of infections caused by the BA.2 subvariant of the BA.1 omicron coronavirus has surged in the past two weeks, and now accounts for 11 percent of cases among travelers entering Israel. The figure jumped from 7 percent following the entry of a group of Nepalese workers infected with the new subvariant into the country.
According to the Health Ministry, 350 infections with the BA.2 subvariant have been verified. “At present we know that the subvariant is more infectious, but does not cause more severe illness than the BA.1 variant,” a ministry spokesman said.
COVID-19 chief Prof. Salman Zarka said Monday that the Health Ministry is keeping a close eye on the new BA.2 subvariant, “which according to data from Europe has the potential to be more infectious than omicron, and in some European countries has slowed down the decline in the omicron wave, while in others, such as Denmark, it has sparked a new wave.- Advertisment -Ads by Brightcom
“There is almost no delta morbidity and most of the current morbidity is from the omicron BA.1 variant and the BA.2 subvariant. We are still in the midst of a wave with very high [infectiousness],” Zarka said, “a wave which we have not seen the likes of previously and which unfortunately is yet to end.”
The Health Ministry is still unable to ascertain the new subvariant’s potential impact on the current wave of infections sweeping the country, or whether it is likely to replace the omicron variant and to set new record case numbers.
The U.K. Health Security Agency reported last Friday that there was an increased growth rate of BA.2 compared with BA.1 in all regions of Britain where there were enough cases to compare, and that “the apparent growth [difference] is currently substantial.”- Advertisment –
Experts say the BA.2 subvariant is a relative of omicron, and while similar to BA.1 in many respects, it also appears to diverge from its parent variant across a number of traits.
“They developed from the same evolutionary branch and it operates in the same way as omicron,” said a senior laboratory virologist. “It behaves differently in different countries. In some countries we have seen it spread rapidly along with a decline in omicron, and in others it has spread slowly where omicron was at a peak. But it appears that this depends on other parameters such as the level of vaccination of the population, so it is difficult to analyze and make predictions.”
According to Dr. Yotam Shenhar, head of laboratoris at Leumit Health Services, “At this stage we do not have well-founded data. What we know at the moment is that on the one hand it is similar to omicron and may replace it, and on the other that there is no evidence of broad infection with both strains, so it is unlikely to lead to a new wave after the omicron wave.”- Advertisment –
The subvariant’s similarity to omicron is a relief insofar as the relatively mild symptoms it causes, but another trait is nevertheless causing concern among experts: BA.2 is even more infectious than omicron. “A number of studies show that it is more infectious than omicron,” said Prof. Cyrille Cohen, head of the immunotherapy lab at Bar-Ilan University.
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According to a report by the U.K. health services, it is 1.3 times more infectious than omicron, while a study in Denmark found it to be 1.5 times more infectious. There are signs that vaccinations offer greater protection against BA.2 compared to BA.1, at a level of 70 percent protection against symptomatic illness two weeks after administration of the vaccine for BA.1, compared to 63 percent for omicron. “This counters the claim that vaccines could encourage the emergence of new variants. In general, we see that what contributes to new variants is the pace of infection, not whether the population is vaccinated or not,” said Cohen.
On the possibility of re-infection with the BA.2 subvariant among people who have already been infected with omicron, Cohen said there are initial signs of re-infection, but it is not yet possible to draw hard conclusions. “It’s probably rare and at this stage we cannot talk of a significant process of re-infection. However, more data is required, and we cannot say unequivocally. The encouraging part of this is that it appears the severity of the subvariant is no different to that of omicron.”
Amid the omicron wave, scientists and health officials have been hard-pressed with evaluating the risk of the new subvariant. “It’s hard to know why the BA.2 subvariant has become dominant is some places like Denmark and the Philippines, while in others it hasn’t,” said Cohen.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday he has tested positive for Covid-19, but is “feeling fine″ and will continue working remotely.
Trudeau said on Thursday that he was going into isolation for five days after finding out the previous evening he had been in contact with someone who tested positive. He told The Canadian Press on Friday that person was one of his three children.
Canada has one of the world’s highest rates of vaccination against the coronavirus
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks about Canada’s military support for Ukraine, during a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, January 26, 2022.Blair Gable | Reuters
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday he has tested positive for Covid-19, but is “feeling fine″ and will continue working remotely.
The announcement came in a tweet in which he urged everyone to “please get vaccinated and get boosted.”
Trudeau said on Thursday that he was going into isolation for five days after finding out the previous evening he had been in contact with someone who tested positive. He told The Canadian Press on Friday that person was one of his three children.
Trudeau previously isolated at home in the early months of the pandemic after his wife tested positive.
Canada has one of the world’s highest rates of vaccination against the coronavirus — shots which are primarily designed to keep those who become infected from falling seriously ill.
The announcement followed a weekend of protests in Canada’s capital, Ottawa, against vaccine mandates, masks and lockdowns. Some demonstrators traveled in truck convoys and parked on the streets around Parliament Hill, blocking traffic.
But about two years ago, he began dialysis and was placed on MUSC Health’s list for a kidney transplant.
It was on Nov. 1 that he got a letter from the health system that said he would be moved to inactive status if he didn’t get the COVID-19 vaccine by Jan. 1, 2022.
“If you do not wish to be vaccinated, we will move you to inactive status until we are able to verify proof of completed vaccination,” it read, in part.
Wilson said there was an effort to get him on board.
“Right before they moved me to inactive, I got a phone call from a manager down there at MUSC and she had asked me what it was going to take, what could they do to make me get the shot? And I said, at this time there’s nothing you can say,” Wilson said.
A spokesperson shared a statement with WYFF News 4 on the policy.
“MUSC Health is part of a growing number of transplant centers who are making this same requirement, due to the overwhelming evidence of improving patient outcomes post-transplant for those who are vaccinated.
Before declining transplant candidacy, every effort is being made to understand the rationale behind individual vaccine refusal and to reduce barriers or misinformation related to vaccine acceptance.
As part of the transplant process, we require many vaccinations and wellness exams to be completed (colonoscopy, mammograms, pap smears, etc), in addition to COVID-19 vaccines. All of these requirements are to assure a safe and successful post-transplant outcome,” said Heather Woolwine who serves as the Director of Public Affairs, Media Relations and Presidential Communications for MUSC.
Wilson said doctors told him he has about 5 to 7 years on dialysis.
He’s now in year 2.
“I know for me right now, I got a little bit of working room to kind of hold up to see what happens in the future,” he said.
“I see it as so unethical, I see it as inhumane and I do believe that it’s unconstitutional,” said State Rep. Ashley Trantham, who represents the Pelzer area of Greenville County.
Trantham heard about Jason’s story and after unsuccessful attempts to get him back on the list, turned toward a different direction.
“The only other thing that I can think of doing for him was to file legislation that says that any hospital system cannot deny somebody the opportunity for that life-saving procedure based on their COVID vaccination status,” she said.
She said the bill also addresses insurance companies to ensure that they can’t deny coverage.
Trantham said she’s hopeful lawmakers will move forward with the bill.
In the meantime, Wilson said he’s hoping a COVID vaccination requirement will ease over time.
“Maybe they can kind of back up on the shot and just leave it as highly recommended like the flu shot,” he said.
On August 9, 2021, Washington governor, Jay Insley, signed a proclamation mandating all state employees be fully vaccinated against COVID by October 18. The order survived legal challenges. And vaccination became a condition for state employment.
Two days before the proclamation went into effect, State Trooper Robert LaMay, resigned after 22 years as a cop. LaMay was an anti-vaxxer who refused to save his job by getting a vaccination that could save his life. On Friday, he died from COVID-19.
I am sure that when he signed off for the final time, sitting in the driver’s seat of his patrol car, speaking into the cop radio, and demanding Governor Jay Inslee “kiss my ass”, he felt the self-satisfaction of a man who has done the right thing by his lights. And put his life on the line to stick to a sacred principle. I wonder if he was thinking the same thing as he died of COVID.
Days after his resignation, LaMay was, predictably, interviewed on Fox News because anti-vaxxers do not seem to appreciate the irony of doing interviews on a cable channel that requires all its employees to be vaccinated. He had this to say,
“When we started off this program, [the vaccine mandate] there was several hundred that were willing to get fired. Well, then they started looking at their finances. They looked at what they can do and they decided to take the vaccination.”
One side-effect these vaccine vacillators suffered was not dying. By compromising their stand, they did more than keep their jobs – they kept living. I’m not exactly sure what the downside to getting vaccinated is. John Stockton’s claim that 100+ professional athletes have died on the field from bad vaccine reactions seems tragic. Except he’s keeping the evidence for his proposition to himself. And no one else can find it.
Which is SOP for anti-vaxxers. For all their hyperbole, they have presented no scientific evidence showing any significant side effects from the COVID vaccines. And while there have been a small number of minor side effects, they have been, in every case, far less harmful to people than getting the disease.
I want an anti-vaxxer to produce, just once, a story where someone, who received a COVID vaccine, is lying on their deathbed desperately unhappy that they got vaccinated. But all I can find are the non-vaccinated crushed by the stupidity of their decision not to get a simple, safe, life-saving medicine.
Let us bring LaMay’s tragic tale to an end. Washington State Patrol Chief John R. Batiste said of the trooper’s death.
‘This agency’s prayers and remembrances are with his family and loved ones. Rob served honorably for over two decades, and we were disappointed to see him leave the agency this past October. His service to this state and agency will be long remembered and appreciated. Let us now remember our old friend.”
This points to one final irony. The people who knew him will remember him. But among the people who didn’t know him, the ones who will forget him the fastest are the anti-vaxxers. Because his death does their narrative no favors. And you will not hear it mentioned on any of the anti-science sites because the truth is to an anti-vaxxer what garlic is to a vampire.
PUBLISHED MON, JAN 24 202210:29 AM ESTUPDATED MON, JAN 24 20227:14 PM ESTDan Mangan@_DANMANGANSHAREShare Article via FacebookShare Article via TwitterShare Article via LinkedInShare Article via EmailKEY POINTS
Former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin speaks while campaigning for U.S. Senate candidate Judge Roy Moore at the Historic Union Station Train Shed in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S., September 21, 2017.Tammi Chappel | Reuters
The newspaper quoted Elio’s manager as saying “we just made a mistake,” and that the restaurant checks vaccination cards only for first-time guests, and not for longtime guests, one of whom Palin was eating with.
A City Hall spokesman said, “The Key to NYC rules were put in place to protect all New Yorkers – including the small businesses that power our city’s economy.”
“Ms. Palin needs to respect small business workers and follow the rules just like everyone else,” the spokesman said.
Last month, Palin said that she will get a Covid-19 vaccine “over my dead body.”https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=_DanMangan&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X2hvcml6b25fdHdlZXRfZW1iZWRfOTU1NSI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJodGUiLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3NwYWNlX2NhcmQiOnsiYnVja2V0Ijoib2ZmIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1485057502962196482&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cnbc.com%2F2022%2F01%2F24%2F-unvaccinated-sarah-palin-positive-for-covid-before-ny-times-defamation-trial.html&sessionId=575209cc9c76cc6e6d438d442b43080f76befc81&siteScreenName=CNBC&theme=light&widgetsVersion=75b3351%3A1642573356397&width=550px
Judge Jed Rakoff announced in court Monday that he learned Sunday evening that the 57-year-old Palin was again positive for the virus.
“She is of course unvaccinated,” Rakoff said.
After a second test confirmed Palin was positive for Covid, Rakoff postponed the trial start date to February.
Palin sued the Times and its former editorial page editor for allegedly damaging her reputation with a 2017 editorial that suggested an image produced by Palin’s political action committee incited the 2011 shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona.
Palin was not well known to the American public when GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain picked her to be his running mate in 2008.
The McCain-Palin ticket lost to President Barack Obama and his running mate, Joe Biden, who is now president.
IN THE FIRST days of the new year, on the marshy coastal edge of South Carolina’s Lowcountry, a hunter shot an American widgeon, a rusty-fronted duck with a pale beak and a brilliant green stripe. This was not a big deal; the state’s duck hunting season runs from Thanksgiving through the end of January. Neither was what happened next: Before taking it home, the hunter let a wildlife biologist affiliated with a government program swab the carcass for lab analysis.
But what happened after that was a big deal indeed. After the sample went through its routine check at Clemson University, it made an unusual second stop at a federal lab halfway across the country, in Iowa. The news of what was in the sample percolated through a pyramid of agencies, and on January 14 the US Department of Agriculture revealed why it had attracted so much scrutiny: The South Carolina duck was carrying the Asian strain of H5N1 avian influenza, the first sighting of that pathogen in the continental US in years.
But not the last. Just a few days later, the USDA disclosed that two more birds shot by hunters also carried the same pathogen: a teal, shot in the same South Carolina county, and a northern shoveler shot in the far northeast corner of North Carolina, about 400 miles away. The virus in all three was what is known as highly pathogenic—meaning it could cause fast-moving, fatal disease in other bird species, such as poultry, though it was not making the ducks ill.
Three birds out of the millions that American hunters shoot each year might seem like nothing—but the findings have sent a ripple of disquiet through the community of scientists who monitor animal diseases. In 2015, that same strain of flu landed in the Midwest’s turkey industry and caused the largest animal-disease outbreak ever seen in the US, killing or causing the destruction of more than 50 million birds and costing the US economy more than $3 billion. Human-health experts are uneasy as well. Since 2003, that flu has sickened at least 863 people across the world and killed more than half of them. Other avian flu strains have made hundreds more people ill. Before Covid arrived, avian flu was considered the disease most likely to cause a transnational outbreak.
It is far too soon to say whether the arrival of this virus in the US is a blip, an imminent danger to agriculture, or a zoonotic pathogen probing for a path to attack humanity. But it is a reminder that Covid is not the only disease with pandemic potential, and of how easy it is to lose focus when it comes to other possible threats. The possibility of a human- or animal-origin strain of flu swamping the world once seemed so imminent that back in 2005 the White House wrote a national strategy for it. But researchers say the surveillance schemes that would pick up its movement have since been allowed to drift.
“In wildlife disease surveillance, we’re always chasing a crisis,” says David Stallknecht, director of the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, a research institute housed at the University of Georgia. “And as soon as the crisis is over, the interest goes down. It’s difficult to keep going long-term. People are here to do the work, but the money isn’t there to support it.”
To understand the importance of those three ducks and the virus they were carrying, we need to take a quick tour through Flu School. Lesson One: The flu virus family tree is vast and sprawling; it contains types—A, B, C, D—and subtypes, designated with Hs and Ns. (Those are short for proteins that let the virus infect cells.) Just within the As, there are almost 200 subtypes; a few affect humans, but almost all of them can infect birds.ADVERTISEMENT
Lesson Two: For a long time, scientists thought humans were in little danger from all those other flu strains. That assumption was shattered in 1997, when an avian influenza, H5N1, jumped species in Hong Kong and infected 18 people, killing six of them. To shut it down, the local government slaughtered every chicken in the territory, denying the virus a host. That worked for a few years, but in 2003 H5N1 started to move across the world again, and it has been moving ever since.
Lesson Three: Avian flu can be dangerous to people, but it threatens some birds too. Waterbirds, chiefly ducks, carry it without illness, but it makes chickens sick. Here again, there are subcategories: Avian flu can be low-pathogenic, meaning that it makes birds mildly ill and slows down egg production. Or it can be highly pathogenic, or high-path: a fast-moving infection so vicious that it can kill an entire flock in two days. (A prominent poultry researcher once called it “chicken Ebola.”)
To sum all that up (there will not be a quiz): The flu found in the Carolinas is an H5N1, meaning it is of the subtype that normally infects birds but in the past has sickened people. It is a high-path variety, the kind that can wipe out domesticated flocks. It belongs to a strain related to that first species-crossing jump in 1997. And, to make matters worse, it represents just one instance of a remarkable amount of highly pathogenic H5N1 showing up in the world right now.
Last year, the World Organization for Animal Health (known by its French acronym, OIE) estimated that between May 1 and November 1, 41 countries experienced outbreaks of highly pathogenic bird flu, with 16,000 isolations of the virus reported just in October. Fifteen countries also reported outbreaks between October and December.
Occasional isolations of avian flu in wild birds are not unusual, but last fall high-path H5N1 began erupting in the United Kingdom with extraordinary intensity. Since October and into this year, the virus has been found in wild species, including swans, geese, shorebirds, and birds of prey. But it has also invaded poultry farms, primarily in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. By January, more than 1 million chickens and other birds had been destroyed to stop it from spreading. In December, the UK’s chief veterinary officer called the occurrence of bird flu there “phenomenal,” saying the strain had spread to the largest number of farm properties ever seen.
At almost the same moment, Dutch authorities were ordering the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of poultry on farms in the country. In the Czech Republic, more than 100,000 hens died of avian flu on an egg farm, and another 100,000 birds and about 1 million eggs were destroyed to stop the virus from spreading further. In France, farmers feared the virus would invade the duck-raising southwest, the home of foie gras. Last week, the agriculture ministry ordered 2.5 million birds killed. In Italy, more than 4 million poultry died or were slaughtered between October and December. And the Friedrich Loeffler Institute, the animal-disease research unit of the German government, said at the end of December that Europe was experiencing “the strongest avian influenza epidemic ever,” with cases reaching as far north as the Faroe Islands and as far south as Portugal.https://7131f41a6bea5330fef22104a83ee1fe.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.htmlMost Popular
Those slaughter numbers should make the case that the flu is not only a threat to animal welfare, but an engine of economic damage as well. Rabobank, a financial services and analysis firm based in the Netherlands, has already predicted that these massive culls, layered on top of pandemic-fueled freight problems and rising feed costs, could inflate food prices this year.
For the most part, birds stick to specific north-south migratory pathways and don’t fly laterally around the globe. So to scientists in North America, outbreaks of bird flu in Europe were a cause for worry, but not immediate alarm. But in December and again in January, high-path H5N1 was found in farms in Newfoundland, at the top of the migratory flyway that sweeps down the US coast. That is the same flyway that crosses over the Carolinas, where the virus-carrying ducks were caught—and also over the more than 1 billion chickens grown each year in Georgia, the most poultry-dense state in the US.
Because this flu is highly pathogenic, the challenge is that there is no time for mitigation once it arrives in a flock. As Midwest turkey producers experienced in 2015, it blows up into a destructive epidemic overnight. That requires poultry farmers to harden their defenses now—and while that seems like an obvious task, it requires precision and cost in an industry that runs on thin margins and speed. Carol Cardona, a wildlife veterinarian and chair of avian health at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, likens it to learning to live under Covid: Every daily action requires a calculation of risk and takes a little more patience than you can easily summon.
“It’s the same for growing poultry,” she says. “How do we feed them without introducing a little bit of risk? How do we care for them? In normal times, when we don’t have a threat, you can be more efficient in how you do things. But now things have to change. You have to be perfect all the time. That’s a lot of stress.”
Scientists who monitor wildlife fret that there is something else going on in this wave of flu. Wild waterbirds are accidental transport vehicles for the virus, but rarely victims. They pick it up and transfer it to other birds in ponds and wetlands at the ends of their migration journeys and then carry it with them, unharmed, once they return to the skies. But in Israel, where more than a half-million poultry have died or been slaughtered, the first sign of trouble was a mass die-off of thousands of wild cranes in a wetland that lies directly under a migration route. The European Food Safety Authority has identified deaths from flu in at least 80 other species of wild birds, leaving scientists to wonder whether bird flu has evolved into a further threat.
“The catastrophic issue economically is poultry,” Stallknecht says. “But we also have to be concerned with wildlife health. And there are some populations of shorebirds that are already not in good shape, so we need to be monitoring them also.”https://7131f41a6bea5330fef22104a83ee1fe.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.htmlMost Popular
There’s also evidence these new waves of bird flu have been leaking into humans. In the first week of January, UK health authorities revealed that a man in Devon who kept ducks as pets had the country’s first-ever human case of H5N1 bird flu. The ducks were all slaughtered; the man was reported to be quarantined and surviving the infection but lonely and missing his birds. In November, the WHO said it has been monitoring a slow surge in human infections in China caused by a known but less common bird flu subtype, H5N6. By the end of 2021, there had been 26 people infected, one of whom died. And in February a year ago, the Russian government revealed that seven poultry farm workers fell ill (and recovered) from yet another subtype, H5N8.
Other bird-specific strains have been surging into humans as well. The Chinese government disclosed last June that a man who had no known contact with poultry developed an infection with a flu strain never before seen in humans, H10N3, and that he was hospitalized but recovered. Since 2013, China has recorded more than 1,600 human cases of yet another strain, H7N9.
Though there have been notifications of those outbreaks—the regulations governing the WHO require countries to send immediate notification of high-path avian flu—they have not all included details about genetic sequences or spread. Researchers are hungry for answers. “The question is: What’s new?” says Daniel Lucey, an infectious-disease physician and senior scholar at Georgetown University’s O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law. “The quantity of outbreaks is massive, but has there been a change in qualitative risk? Have the sequences changed so the virus is more likely to infect humans? Can we document person-to-person spread?”
A further concern lurks behind this bloom of bird flu. Until now, biologists have assumed the danger is seasonal, triggered by the movement of waterbirds as they migrate: If there are no visiting birds overhead, or on shores or in ponds, they can’t spread a virus to local birds or people. But researchers are beginning to wonder whether climate change is interfering with migration patterns. The typical pattern for bird flu infections has been for them to begin during the fall migrations and then continue through the winter and into spring. But in Germany last year, scientists were able to identify H5 viruses in wild birds throughout the summer, a first.
It’s difficult for scientists to make the case for year-round surveillance and better financial support when they can’t say whether this wave of flu is a brief aberration or the first moments of a sustained emergency. But the world wouldn’t be facing that uncertainty if the capacity for surveillance and analysis had been built after the massive 2015 outbreak, or any of the ones before that. We didn’t do it earlier, so the time to start is now.
A sign at the edge of an exclusion zone warns of the closure of a footpath after an outbreak of bird flu in the village of Upham in southern England, February 3, 2015.(photo credit: REUTERS/PETER NICHOLLS)Advertisementhttps://trinitymedia.ai/player/trinity-player.php?pageURL=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.jpost.com%2Fhealth-and-wellness%2Farticle-694366&unitId=2900003088&userId=43dabe08-2b1a-4c7c-bafe-85ac9a956566&isLegacyBrowser=false&version=20220124_f72f860bfd9c3551b2d6b109e6a4485f247ff3b3&useCFCDN=0&themeId=140
Two additional wild birds have been found to be infected with highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A(H5N1) virus in South and North Carolina, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced on Tuesday.
The two birds were found to be infected just days after a wild American wigeon was found to be infected with the virus in Colleton County, South Carolina, the first case of Eurasian H5 avian influenza in the US since 2016. Other variants of the bird flu have been detected in the US in recent years.Top Articles By JPostRead More
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APHIS added that it expects to find further cases among wild birds and advised people to avoid having direct contact with wild birds. The service urged farmers and hunters to practice good biosecurity to prevent the spread of the virus.
The USDA added that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still considers the risk to the general public from the variant to be low. No human infections from the variant have occurred in the US.
In the UK, one person was infected with the H5N1 variant earlier this month and has since recovered without experiencing severe illness. The patient had close contact with ducks.Workers in protective gear seen in Moshav Givat Yoav, in northern Israel, December 29, 2021, following an outbreak of the Avian influenza. (credit: MICHAEL GILADI/FLASH90)
In China, a spike in the number of human infections caused by the H5N6 subvariant of the bird flu has been recorded in the past year. One new case of human infection was reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) between January 14 to 20.
According to the WHO, the rise in H5N6 cases may reflect the continued circulation of the virus in birds and enhanced surveillance due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The WHO added that the zoonotic threat remains elevated due to the spread of the viruses among birds, but that the overall pandemic risk associated with the strain of bird flu has not significantly changed.
The increase in human infections caused by the H5N6 subtype of avian influenza is causing concern among experts, who say that a previously circulating strain appears to have changed and could be more infectious to people.
“The increase in human cases in China this year is of concern. It’s a virus that causes high mortality,” said Thijs Kuiken, professor of comparative pathology at Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam, to Reuters in October.
A large number of bird flu outbreaks have been reported throughout Europe, Africa and Asia in recent weeks, mostly due to the H5N1 subtype, which comes from the H5 lineage, according to the World Organization for Animal Health.
Over a million birds were found to be infected with the variant in Israel in recent months, although Israel’s Agriculture Ministry declared in recent weeks that the outbreak is now under control.
The OIE has urged countries to increase surveillance for HPAI outbreaks, as the virus has been reported in over 40 countries since July.
The H5N1, H5N3, H5N4, H5N5, H5N6 and H5N8 subtypes of HPAI are circulating in bird and poultry populations across the globe, sparking concern at OIE which called this an “unprecedented genetic variability of subtypes… creating an epidemiologically challenging landscape.”
Earlier this month, OIE Director General Monique Eloit told Reuters that “this time the situation is more difficult and more risky because we see more variants emerge, which make them harder to follow.”
“Eventually the risk is that it mutates or that it mixes with a human flu virus that can be transmitted between humans then suddenly it takes on a new dimension,” she added.
Germany’s Federal Research Institute for Animal Health, the Friedrich Loeffler Institute, told the German Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) that Europe is experiencing its “strongest avian flu epidemic ever.”
The institute added that “there is no end in sight” as the virus spreads throughout the continent and around the world, with new cases reported on a daily basis.