- What is avian flu?
It is an epizootic caused by a respiratory virus of the avian influenza genus. It affects several species of wild birds as well as farmed birds such as chickens, turkeys, ducks … It has been more than a year since the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) warns about the spread of this disease.
Avian influenza follows the migratory corridor of wild birds. In France, the first case on a wild bird was reported at the end of October. At the beginning of November, a first outbreak was detected in a farm in Haute-Corse. Since then, the epidemic has spread.
- How contagious is the current strain of avian influenza?
Yes, because the virus circulating right now is HP H5N8. These last two letters mean that this strain is highly pathogenic. This results in a sudden onset of the disease, rapid spread to the whole farm and high mortality. It is estimated that in less than 48 hours, it causes the death of 80% of animals.
This is why there are extremely strict sanitary measures which can go as far as the preventive slaughter of farms around a focus of infection. The economic consequences are therefore enormous.
- Can avian influenza be transmitted to humans?
No, in the large family of Influenza viruses, very few are capable of infecting humans. H5N8 is a virus that we already know. And so far, there have been no human cases to report. But, since there is no such thing as zero risk, especially with such a contagious animal infectious focus, certain precautions must be taken.
It is therefore recommended not to touch wild birds, nests, feathers and droppings. If you have chickens, you should use high nets to protect them. There is indeed no treatment for bird flu. And even if a vaccine exists, it is not authorized by the European Commission because it does not block the transmission of the virus.