by Marion Nestle
Dec 21 2023

Bird flu causing big trouble

Avian influenza of the highly pathogenic kind (HPAI, H5N1) is now everywhere.

The CDC says bird flu, caused by avian influenza viruses,

naturally spread among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species. Bird flu viruses do not normally infect humans. However, sporadic human infections with  bird flu viruses have occurred.

The CDC also has much to say about the current status of H5N1: it has infected 72.5 million poultry so far this year.  These had to be destroyed.

One egg producer, Michael Foods, said it “lost” 4.2 million laying hens to HPAI.


According to Vox, 

The 2022-2023 spread of bird flu has been the most catastrophic on record in the US. In less than two years, it’s hit hundreds of poultry factory farms across nearly every state in the country, costing the federal government $757 million and counting to manage, and the poultry industry more than $1 billion in lost revenue and other costs (experts also fear that the disease could spark an outbreak in humans).

To help stamp out the disease’s spread, all of the more than 72 million chickens, turkeys, and other birds raised for meat and eggs on affected farms have been killed and disposed of, whether or not they actually had the virus, which can spread rapidly and has a very high mortality rate for poultry birds.

Vox explains the killing method (consider what killing millions of chickens entails): basically shutting down the ventilation.

This seems catastrophic, even though 72 million is just a small fraction of the 1.2 billion chicken alive at any time.

Surely, industrially crowded housing has something to do with the rapid spread of H5N1.  Another downside of industrial egg production.

Expect egg prices to rise.

Happy new year.