On July 12, agencies of the United Nations warned that as outbreaks of new strains of H5N1 avian influenza continue to rise around the world, the mutating disease poses an increasing danger of human infection with bird flu. The UN called on nations to make improvements to hygiene on poultry farms to reduce the risk.
Among the causes for concern is a surging number of cases found in mammals.
In a statement, the FAO, WHO and the WOAH wrote that while the disease still does not appear to be easily transmissible between humans, that could change.
“Avian influenza viruses normally spread among birds, but the increasing number of H5N1 avian influenza detections among mammals — which are biologically closer to humans than birds are — raises concern that the virus might adapt to infect humans more easily,” the statement reads. “In addition, some mammals may act as mixing vessels for influenza viruses, leading to the emergence of new viruses that could be more harmful to animals and humans.”
Recent research also suggests that mammalian infections with avian flu are becoming more severe.
The agencies urged world governments and health officials to enhance their surveillance of the disease in both animals and humans, and noted that they can “prevent avian influenza at its source” through “enhanced biosecurity measures in farms and in poultry value chains.”
In 2022, 131 million farmed birds across 67 countries died or were culled due to avian flu, according to the UN agencies. This year, outbreaks have been identified in 14 countries to date, with the majority of the disease’s spread seen in the Americas and “several mass death events have been reported in wild birds.”
Most Recent Reporting on Avian Flu
Our most recent reporting covers new research of genetic mutations of avian flu, the impact of the disease on communities and workers in the Yucatan and outbreaks in Europe.
- Is Avian Flu Already Endemic? Here’s What Scientists Know
- Avian Flu Is Mutating. How Worried Should We Be?
- Chickens Burned and Buried as Avian Flu Hits the Yucatan
- Europe Braces for New Avian Flu Outbreaks on Poultry Farms
- Every Human Case of Avian Flu Reported So Far
- 8 Reasons Why Eggs Are So Expensive Right Now
- New Study Shows Staggering Increase in Heatstroke-Induced Chicken Culls 0
- Poultry Producers Use ‘Most Inhumane Method’ to Kill Birds Exposed to Avian Flu
Impacts of Avian Flu Beyond Industry
Our reporting has also tracked impacts to backyard chicken keepers, pandemic risk related on the rise, media analysis and threats to wild birds in Latin America:
- Avian Flu Is Making it Tougher to Keep Backyard Chickens
- Pandemic Risk on the Rise Thanks to How We Eat
- Avian Flu Could Hit Latin America Next, Shorebird Researchers Warn
- What This Guardian Article Got Wrong About Avian Flu
Avian Flu Resources and Further Reading
Global and U.S. Agency Reporting and Surveillance Resources:
- World Health Organization Avian and Other Zoonotic Influenza
- CDC Avian Flu Summary
- CDC Avian Flu Information
- USDA APHIS | Avian Influenza
- U.K. Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs
- U.S. Geological Survey Surveillance
Reporting on Outbreaks 2021-2022
Early reporting tracked disease spread from 2021 through early 2022
- Latest Updates From the 2022 Avian Flu Outbreak
- Bird Flu Spreads at Astonishing Rate, Forcing More Culls
- First Human Case of H3N8 Bird Flu Confirmed in China
- The Other Pandemic: Avian Flu Is Spreading Around the Globe
This post was last updated June 26, 2023.
Sentient Media editorial team.