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Bird Flu Poised to Become Endemic in the US

Bird Flu Poised to Become Endemic in the US

Vaccine makers prepare for possibility of distributing bird flu vaccine for humans ‘just in case’ species barrier is crossed.

We have been covering reports related to the severe strain of the bird flu, which has a high lethality rate and has decimated poultry farms across the US.

New reports indicate that this country’s bird flu will probably become endemic.

The outbreak is “wiping out everything in numbers we’ve never seen before,” Jennifer Mullinax, an assistant professor of environmental science and technology at the University of Maryland, told Sky News. The new H5N1 strain has already killed over 58 million chickens, turkeys, and other birds, Reuters reported.

The US is no stranger to the impact of the disease, with the H5N8 strain having led to the culling of 50 million birds in 2015. But the new, more contagious strain is particularly affecting wild birds, Sky News reported.

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

“It’s difficult to estimate how many birds are truly affected across wild populations, but we’re seeing dramatic disease impacts in raptors, sea birds, and colonial nesting birds. And we now have the highest amount of poultry loss to avian influenza, so this is a worst-case scenario,” she added.

The researchers believe that bird flu will probably become endemic — a phenomenon where a disease is constantly present within an area or community in the US — which could affect food security and the economy.

My colleague Mary Chastain noted that the US was considering new vaccines for poultry to combat the spread. However, this idea is not fully embraced by poultry farmers, who have concerns about consequences.

Skeptics of poultry vaccination say that’s the right approach. Immunizing flocks, they argue, could allow the virus to spread silently—not reducing the threat of an avian flu pandemic but simply making it more difficult to detect. And the current practice of “stamping out” outbreaks has worked: Before the current HPAI strain surfaced in U.S. flocks in February 2022, no HPAI had swept through since 2015. But in the face of the largest HPAI outbreak on record, both the United States and Europe are rethinking their hesitancy.

Many questions remain about how, exactly, to use a vaccine in countries that have relied on culling. And because of the uncertain U.S. market, companies are reluctant to invest in moving beyond the initial steps of making vaccines against the current variant and embarking on the rigorous and costly process of seeking regulatory approval.

“There’s no incentive at all,” says microbiologist Mahesh Kumar, who heads global biologics R&D for Zoetis, which makes vaccines for pets and livestock and sells an HPAI vaccine outside the United States. “It’s very, very difficult for anybody to continue to invest in that space.”

Now some of the world’s leading makers of flu vaccines suggest they could make hundreds of millions of bird flu shots for humans within months if a new strain of avian influenza ever jumps across the species divide (which we are assured is a low possibility).

Executives at three vaccine manufacturers – GSK Plc (GSK.L) Moderna Inc (MRNA.O) and CSL Seqirus, owned by CSL Ltd (CSL.AX) – told Reuters they are already developing or about to test sample human vaccines that better match the circulating subtype, as a precautionary measure against a future pandemic.

Others, like Sanofi (SASY.PA), said they “stand ready” to begin production if needed, with existing H5N1 vaccine strains in stock.


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Unpopular opinion here: THIS is the threat that mRNA vaccines were meant to fight, i.e. lethal widespread pandemics. Since the mRNA process is practically Dial-an-Antibody, a drug company can go from bug to mass-produced shot in less than a week. When the lethality of a virus is something like 60% (grabbing a number out of thin air here), having a single percentage of bad aftereffects becomes far less serious.

I am still not too terribly pleased at having the world be used as involuntary test subjects for the C-19 shots. However, we are getting to the point where any idiot with CRISPER can crank out their own custom lethal bugs, and I’d rather not live in a world that has been reduced to a few hundred people.

    CommoChief in reply to georgfelis. | April 24, 2023 at 6:02 pm

    There are those who argue that Pharma is assisting in the creation of the market demand for their product, very mush as the arms industry has been known to do a time or two in the not so distant past. I am not quite cynical enough to jump on that bandwagon yet, though the music is becoming more captivating every day.

    healthguyfsu in reply to georgfelis. | April 24, 2023 at 6:08 pm

    As you insinuate, the answer is always to allow independent choice on vaccination. The Biden admin and their cronies don’t know the meaning of the word choice unless it’s code for abortion.

    I’m skeptical of their “abilities” to pivot on a dime on this. If COVID was as bad as advertised, why didn’t they do that with delta or omicron. It took a long time to get a bivalent form. I also think creating one now would have to be fully subsidized by the government and having a vaccine against the current form would not be that effective against a mutant strain that is much more transmissible to humans. It’s almost like they just want free government money…not surprised.

    henrybowman in reply to georgfelis. | April 25, 2023 at 12:47 am

    “Since the mRNA process is practically Dial-an-Antibody”
    Prior to 2020, the mRNA process was 100% Dial-a-Dead-Lab-Animal.
    I’m certainly not ready to give it my personal imprimatur.

    The_Mew_Cat in reply to georgfelis. | April 27, 2023 at 12:50 pm

    As I recall, an attempt to use mRNA technology for a flu vaccine didn’t work very well.

Between Fauci, Deborah Brix, “Ms.” Admiral Levine and Rochelle Walensky, the trust for any ‘new’ vaccine is zero.

Until a Scott Atlas steps in a cleans out the federal healthy bureacracy of the swamp trash that infests it, the trust will remain zero.

I know that conjunctivitis in wild House Finches can be treated with aquarium tetracycline, for what that’s worth. Home remedy.

Dolce Far Niente | April 24, 2023 at 6:31 pm

Reasonably simple biosecurity methods, rigorously adhered to, will keep avian flu out of commercial flocks.

But this means that those cut-rate illegals will require actual supervision in order to make sure that biosecurity isn’t compromised. Avian flu walks in on workers’ boots, 100% of the time.

    B Buchanan in reply to Dolce Far Niente. | April 24, 2023 at 11:57 pm

    For private flocks, keeping them inside a covered run and coop greatly diminishes chances for the virus to get to domestic chickens. No exposure to wild birds. I was amazed at how much healthier my flock was once I stopped them from free-ranging.

We need to look at what’s really killing the birds– it is the farmers, at the insistence of the government, killing entire flocks wherever infection strikes. There is another way to handle this: let the disease take its course, and select among the survivors for the next flock. This technique yields resistant birds.

    healthguyfsu in reply to Valerie. | April 24, 2023 at 6:46 pm

    Not necessarily true. Survival of the fittest only works if there are enough fittest to survive. Otherwise, you get a genetic bottleneck.

    Perhaps you didn’t read the article where the vaccine skeptics said that stamping out outbreaks has worked. This method is faster and more efficient.

      Valerie in reply to healthguyfsu. | April 25, 2023 at 12:47 am

      Read up on Marek’s disease. We’ve seen this before, in chickens. Ineffective vaccines yield an endless dependency on vaccines. Also, this flu is going endemic. To say that quarantine and killing off entire flocks has worked is to deny that reality. Finally, the disease doesn’t kill the whole flock — the farmers do. That is a failed strategy.

        CommoChief in reply to Valerie. | April 25, 2023 at 9:42 am

        Yep. As I stated above the Pharma companies do tend to like building in a need for their products.

E Howard Hunt | April 24, 2023 at 6:48 pm

I’m not giving up my Wild Turkey!

Going to have to double down on my calling so I can get my wild turkey before all this hits.
Need a lot less rain for a while though along with a bit warmer temps.

FJB. Bought us some new chicks at Tractor Supply and paid cash. Worry more about the local bobcat than any dumb disease.

    CommoChief in reply to henrybowman. | April 25, 2023 at 9:40 am

    Could you give a brief description of your set up; coop size/brand, amount of space required, feed requirements, light, heat in winter? I am considering adding some chickens to my little hobby farm.

      henrybowman in reply to CommoChief. | April 25, 2023 at 3:28 pm

      Redneck supreme.

      It’s a 6’x12’x6′ post and chain link dog kennel with a wire roof added to keep the bobcat out. Rear 2/3 top and sides shaded with leftover corrugated roofing outside (coroplast election signs worked fine until a microburst tore these off our hangar roof).

      Chicken furniture added: Random perch poles inside, and nesting ledge at the rear, with sideways kitty-litter buckets for stalls (proper size and they have a nice lip across the bottom after you remove the 3/4 hinged top). A long skinny trough (wallpaper style) outside the chain link where they can drink it but not poop in it.

      Feeding once in the morning, whatever was a deal at Tractor Supply (not even chicken feed is “$ chicken feed” anymore). Natural light, augmented with a timer bulb in the winter to regulate laying behavior. Heating not an issue in desert Arizona, but we do install a mister head when it’s three figures out.

      DW has had up to a dozen chickens comfy and happy in this size pen.

        BierceAmbrose in reply to henrybowman. | April 25, 2023 at 5:01 pm

        Nice setup.

        CommoChief in reply to henrybowman. | April 25, 2023 at 6:23 pm

        Thanks. Gotta figure out some cooling solutions here in South Alabama and worry about Coyote, Hawks and if it gets too dry in Summer the very occasional younger male alligator driven out of scarce resources and breeding opportunity by the older males into my ponds.

          BierceAmbrose in reply to CommoChief. | April 26, 2023 at 4:07 pm

          I’m residential urban for health reasons — gotta get what I need on foot, on my own.

          This Spring’s project on my postage stamp is the accidental berry bramble. More than I can use in a year, and 4-5 times that thereafter. Modern cultivars are incredibly productive, and resilliant. (6 elderberries, 3 container blueberries, 3 container raspbberries. All zone hardy, planted in ideal soil. Big containers — plants should reach their max size.)

          Supplementary veggies do quite well, when I’m on that at all. Livestock of all kinds are regulated, with ample selective enforcement. Not an option, unfortunately.

          I’m not gonna hit food self-sufficient at this location. Even so, shaving some of the dependency down eases a lot of things. Like having a pantry or chest freezer — there’s decoupling, even if it’s not a full prepper autonomy.

          I am entertained every time the DoT or utilities do something disruptive. “Me? Oh, I’m fine. Shame that’s such a bother for you.”