The administration of President Joe Biden is considering launching a giant vaccination campaign because of the rapidly escalating bird flu outbreak. Except, its new vax targets wouldn’t be humans, but poultry — at least for the time being.
The current worldwide outbreak of bird flu — or avian influenza, as the H5N1 virus is more officially known — has been making global headlines. For the first time, its new mutation is infecting significant numbers of mammals such as seals, otters, and foxes.
That sparked fears that the new bid flu variant might become the next pandemic affecting humans — not unlike COVID-19.
There have been individual cases of humans contracting bird flu, but those have been explicitly people who work with poultry or are otherwise in close contact with birds — for instance, chicken farm employees.
However, the big concern of medical and scientific experts is that avian influenza may become easily transmittable among humans, with unknown consequences for global public health.
The Biden administration is currently mulling applying poultry vaccines on a mass scale to try to fend off the bird flu outbreak, which has decimated farm bird populations and helped spike egg prices, The Hill reported.
According to data cited in the report, the current H5N1 outbreak affected 47 states. However, it remains unclear whether the data in question is exhaustive.
Another report by Wired cited data from the World Organization of Animal Health as saying over 140 million birds in a total of 76 nations around the world have died from avian flu. Either that or they have been slaughtered preemptively to contain the spread of the virus.
It is pointed out that the die-offs that H5N1 has caused among wild birds are harder to appraise, but “have been catastrophic.”
The latter data set shows that America lost some 60 million birds, due to die-offs and culling; so much so that farm industry experts have started considering vaccinating commercial poultry, even though they “long resisted” such a measure.
The Poultry Flu Vaccine Doesn’t Even Exist Yet
A spokesperson of the White House National Security Council made it clear the Biden administration is looking at poultry vaccination as “one option” for tackling the avian influenza epidemic.
The spokesperson said any such outbreak could potentially threaten America’s food supply, thus affecting its national security and safety.
At the same time, the official remarked that the US government was presenting focused on “high-impact practices and procedures” in the biosafety field. Those include boosted disinfection among workers to preempt bird flu transmission.
The report notes that the risk of avian flu jumping to humans on a mass scale is deemed low by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the CDC is still monitoring that threat.
The US Department of Agriculture, which responds to detected bird population outbreaks, has started to test poultry vaccines. Still, for the time being, no avian flu vaccine for birds has been authorized.
A report by The New York Times earlier this week said the Agricultural Research Service was developing in-house vaccines that would be deployed faster than new ones. However, its first round of results is expected only in May.
Data from Purdue University shows the average US price of a dozen eggs stood at $4.82 in January 2023, compared with $1.93 in January 2022.