This time of year it’s tempting to put out bird feeders for your sweet neighborly birds to visit.
Dr. Kip Thompson, associate professor of public health and sports medicine at Missouri State University, recommends waiting until warmer months.
Avian flu, specifically the highly pathogenic strain of H5N1, has been sweeping across the United States and around the world. The first cases showed up last November and have only been increasing.
Summertime should hopefully bring an end to the avian influenza outbreak, noted Thompson. It is similar in many ways to the influenza humans contract, which also tends to die down in time for summer.
How commercial poultry is affected
Poultry farms are suffering because of these outbreaks.
“This year has been especially bad. We’ve lost a lot of commercial poultry,” Thompson said.
“The rising prices of eggs and chicken are surprisingly not from COVID-19. It’s primarily because we are having to cull millions and millions of chickens.”
Culling is a term used for removing chickens (or other birds) from the population. It’s necessary when a bird has been exposed.
Because H5N1 is so contagious, it is important to separate the bird as soon as possible.
Are humans in any danger?
Though highly unlikely, it is possible for humans to contract avian influenza.
“It’s almost always occupational in the U.S.,” Thompson said.
“For underdeveloped countries, poultry is typically kept near the house, if not inside, at nighttime — for protection. This increases the chances of humans contracting the H5N1 strain from their birds.”
If you don’t work at a poultry farm handling birds all day, then it is almost impossible for you to contract avian influenza, he added.
For those with a small number of chickens in their yard, do your best to keep wild birds away from your flock. This can be done by ensuring the holes in your coop aren’t wide enough for any other birds to come through.