photo of cow on factory farm

Is This Bird Flu Outbreak a Wake-Up Call? Here’s What You Need to Know

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As the current bird flu outbreak worsens, concerns about transmission to humans are rising. At the time of this writing, 13 farms have reported positive tests in six U.S. states—a low estimate, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t require or even recommend that most farms test for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza A (H5N1). Here’s what you need to know.

What is bird flu?

Bird flu is the disease caused by avian influenza Type A viruses. H5N1 is the highly infectious strain of the virus that’s currently spreading.

Has bird flu spread to other animals?

H5N1 infections have been detected in various species, from wild birds (including several geese in parks and green spaces in New York City) to mammals—including cows, cats, dogs, marine mammals, and humans.

photo of cow on factory farm

Is bird flu fatal?

Infections in birds are often fatal. In cows, bird flu seems to cause mild symptoms, including a low-grade fever and a drop in milk production. In humans, the virus may cause mild symptoms such as conjunctivitis but can result in severe illness or even death.

How is bird flu spreading to other animals?

A farmworker who contracted the virus in Texas had close contact with cows used by the dairy industry. But how did the animals contract the virus in the first place? One reason could be that farmers feed cows “poultry litter,” a mix of feces, feathers, spilled feed, and bedding materials scraped from the floors of buildings on farms where there are infected chickens and turkeys.

Broiler chickens crowded in a factory farm

Since poultry litter is also commonly used to feed pigs on farms, there’s some concern that bird flu may spread to them, which could lead to mutations that would make it easier for it to jump to humans.

Other mammals who aren’t on farms have also contracted it, either by eating infected wild birds or consuming water or food contaminated by their feces. In Ottawa, Canada, health officials reported that a companion dog died of bird flu after chewing on an infected goose. The virus can also spread easily among wild birds and chickens kept in backyards.

Is it safe to eat meat, eggs, and dairy during the bird flu outbreak?

The only way to ensure that you aren’t eating infected flesh or secretions is not to eat them at all. In the dairy industry, not all cows are tested for viruses, so there’s no guarantee that drinking milk and eating cheese is safe. A cow could have symptoms but not appear to be sick. Moreover, pasteurization and ultra-pasteurization processes aren’t always effective at eliminating viruses. Meat, egg, and dairy farms and slaughterhouses create conditions that are breeding grounds for diseases that can mutate and turn into outbreaks that can spread to humans.

It doesn’t matter whether meat is cooked to a certain temperature or eggs, milk, cheese, or yogurt are pasteurized. There’s no reason to continue to eat animals. Some of the many reasons to go vegan include the following:

PETA supporters dressed as chickens hand out vegan egg samples

Who’s responsible for the spread of bird flu?

Humans can’t ignore the link between what they eat and outbreaks of diseases such as bird flu and COVID-19. Cramming animals onto farms for their flesh, eggs, and udder secretions leads to sickness.

Farmers crowd chickens, cows, pigs, and other animals into small cages or feces-ridden sheds where pathogens flourish. They’re transported in filthy trucks and slaughtered on killing floors soaked with blood, urine, and other bodily fluids.

All animal agriculture facilities, even farms that use deceptive labels such as “free-range” and “organic,” are breeding grounds for new strains of dangerous bacteria and viruses.

Need Help Going Vegan? We’ve Got You Covered

Going vegan is the best way to save animals and prevent future pandemics. There are many wonderful animal-free options on the market, so there’s something for everyone. Satisfying vegan meats and eggs, creamy plant-based milks, and meltable cow-friendly cheese will help you make the transition.

Don’t wait—order a free vegan starter kit and start changing the world one meal at a time:

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