Bird flu is back: you should know that by now

Deepak Gupta February 9, 2022
Updated 2022/02/09 at 4:58 AM

Influenza A viruses H5N1, H5N8, H7N9 and others can cause illness in birds. People can also deal with the so-called bird flu infect, but they are less susceptible to the virus. While it often ends in death for chickens and other bird species, influenza is only of limited danger to humans. Nevertheless: better safe than sorry.

Bird flu in Germany

Currently, the cases of infected birds are piling up. Three Baden-Württemberg zoos have reported such. Citing the ornithologist Günther Schleussner, the Stuttgarter Zeitung reports that the virus is spread via poultry transport and migratory birds. “They spend the winter mainly in the Rheingraben, in the Rhine-Neckar region,” says Schleussner. “We are in stand-by mode. As soon as the Ministry for Rural Areas and the Stuttgart Veterinary Office arrange this, we will be able to house the birds within a short time.” However, they only want to resort to this method “if there is no other way”. Currently, the risk of bird flu is still manageable.

However, the virus occurs not only in many places in Germany, but throughout Europe and the USA. “Not only the aggressiveness of the pathogen, but also the fact that it has apparently established itself in the North Sea and Baltic Sea region worries us,” the Neue Züricher Zeitung quotes Thomas Mettenleiter, President of the Friedrich Loeffler Institute (FLI). Dead mammals are a “sign of high contamination in the wild bird population,” adds FLI spokeswoman Elke Reinking.

avian influenza in humans

The virologist and immunologist Matt Koci sometimes provides answers to frequently asked questions about bird flu. Koci is a professor in the Department of Poultry Studies at North Carolina State University (NCSU).

“Once the virus is found in domestic birds, it can be spread from place to place by humans. If you get bird droppings on your boots in one place, go see your neighbors and take the virus with you.”

Matt Koci

Nevertheless: The Robert Koch Institute also confirms that the transmission of influenza A viruses, which occur in birds, to humans is “not very effective”. So while you shouldn’t really aim for it, you don’t have to worry too much about bird flu either.

Sources: Stuttgart newspaper; New Zurich newspaper; North Carolina State University; Robert Koch Institute

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