The worst bird flu outbreak in US history “wipes out everything we’ve never seen before.” Here’s what you need to know.

A dead pelican is seen on the beach in Lima, Peru, December 07, 2022. The government has declared a 90-day health emergency nationwide as more than 13,000 pelicans have died on Peru's beaches, possibly infected by H5N1 avian influenza.

A dead pelican on the beach in Lima, Peru, on December 07, 2022.Klebher Vasquez/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

  • A new strain of bird flu, also known as bird flu, is spreading in the United States.

  • The H5N1 strain causes a variety of new problems and has killed over 58 million birds.

  • One scientist said the variant “erases everything in numbers that we’ve never seen before.”

The United States is currently experiencing its worst outbreak of bird flu, also known as bird flu, and a new strain may become endemic in the United States, according to a new study.

The outbreak is “wiping out everything we’ve never seen before,” Professor Jennifer Mullinax of the University of Maryland told Sky News. The new H5N1 strain has already killed more than 58 million chickens, turkeys and other birds, according to Reuters.

The United States is no stranger to the impact of the disease, with the H5N8 strain killing 50 million birds in 2015. But the newer, more contagious strain is particularly affecting wild birds, Sky reported.

man with turkeys inside chicken coop.  sign outside reads 'biosecurity zone - no admission without owner's permission

Bill Powers with his flock of white turkeys, kept under cover to avoid exposure to bird flu, November 14, 2022 in Townsend, Delaware.Nathan Howard/Getty Images

Johanna Harvey, postdoctoral researcher and lead author of the study published in Conservation Biology at the University of Maryland, said: “Unlike H5N8, this disease strongly affects wild birds.”

“It is difficult to estimate how many birds are truly affected in wild populations, but we are seeing dramatic effects of the disease in raptors, seabirds and colonial breeding birds. And we now have the highest number of poultry losses due to bird flu, so this is the worst case scenario,” she added.

Researchers believe bird flu will likely become endemic, when a disease is consistently present in a region or community in the United States, which could affect food security and the economy.

Last week, the US government began testing four new bird flu vaccines in an attempt to protect poultry from this massive outbreak, according to Reuters.

Are humans in danger?

The disease can and does affect humans, but it is rare.

The first case of H5N1 infection in a human in the United States was reported in April 2022. A man was also diagnosed with the virus in Chile, according to the World Health Organization.

Most cases of human infection have been found in Southeast Asia, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were only three cases of human infection in 2023, two in Cambodia and one in China. One of those infected in Cambodia, an 11-year-old girl, died from the disease.

Speaking to the AP about the death, Professor James Wood, head of the University of Cambridge’s department of veterinary medicine, said there was no reason to be overly concerned about human infection with bird flu.

“As tragic as this case in Cambodia is, we expect there to be cases of clinical illness with such widespread infection. Clearly, the virus needs careful monitoring and surveillance to verify that it has not mutated or recombined, but the limited number of human disease cases have not increased markedly, and this case in itself does not signal that the world situation has suddenly changed,” said he declared.

The markets are in trouble

Farmers and markets are hard hit by the ravages of avian flu.

In January, Insider’s George Glover explained the egg crisis facing Americans as prices jumped nearly 60% in 2022 due to the flu epidemic.

The average cost of a dozen eggs rose 59% last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with prices more than doubling in West Virginia and six Upper Midwestern states.

Large carton of eggs.

Large carton of eggs.PATRICK T. FALLON/Getty Images

The jump was caused by the unprecedented spread of disease and high rates of inflation in 2022 which increased costs for farmers – and it doesn’t look like that will change anytime soon.

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