Track 17: Avian Virology
The current North American epidemic has affected over 40 species of birds, including raptors like owls and hawks as well as songbirds like crows and sparrows. Compared to the North American epidemic in 2014, this one is affecting a wider variety of species and has a larger geographic reach. Despite being zoonotic, there is extremely little risk to humans from avian influenza. People who often handle birds, such as wildlife professionals, poultry workers, or home chicken owners, are at a slightly higher risk. The first human case of avian influenza in North America during this outbreak was recently identified in a guy in Colorado. He was involved in the culling of chickens and contracted an infection from a sick fowl. He experienced little symptoms, was kept isolated, and made a full recovery, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. His minor symptoms are a matter of concern since, as Hill points out, it makes the virus more difficult to detect and monitor because infected people may disregard their weak symptoms and forego medical attention, much with COVID-19.
The 2014 bird flu pandemic eventually subsided, but the 2022 outbreak is very different from the previous outbreak, according to him, therefore that won't likely happen this time. In contrast to this epidemic, the viruses discovered in North America in 2014 only comprised fragments of the highly dangerous H5 viruses. Also, it appears that this assault has expanded more quickly than the previous one. In addition, according to Hill's study, avian flu epidemics tend to grow in size and frequency over time.