The avian influenza (also known as bird flu) is a virus that can spread from bird to bird, or from bird to human. This viral infection also has different strains, and as such, not all are as dangerous. Currently, the deadliest strain of bird flu is known as H5N1. Unfortunately, it can also be fatal to mammals (including humans) who come into close contact with infected birds. In the following article, we’ll update you about the latest news concerning avian influenza, and one the best method you can choose for animal disease control.

Unfortunately, the most effective bird flu treatment is also the most radical one, but with a modern tool for animal carcass disposal, it won’t matter what strain your poultry has caught: you won’t have to worry about the disease spreading from the culled animal.

How does avian influenza spread from bird to bird, or from bird to human?

One of the main ways the virus can spread throughout the world is with the “help” of migrating birds like wild ducks. It is highly suspected that this how chickens can become infected with the virus, with avian influenza spreading from the migrating birds to poultry.

Humans can contract the disease by close contact with birds or their carcass, and even their droppings. For example, some people became infected after washing or plucking infected poultry, but there were also some instances of people catching the disease after swimming in waters contaminated by birds carrying the virus.

Close contact is of course a relative term, but according to public health guidelines, the virus can spread to the human body through the eyes, nose, and mouth. Even healthy looking birds can spread the virus and contaminate surfaces with their droppings, or by allowing the virus to be airborne by flapping, scratching, and shaking their head.

However, it is important to note that one cannot catch the disease by eating thoroughly cooked chickens or eggs, and that the virus does not spread from human to human…so far. This is actually one of the main concerns of scientists for the future. If the virus somehow mutates into a form that could be passed from human to human, it could drastically accelerate its spread around the globe.

What are the symptoms of bird flu?

Symptoms can vary from person to person, but in most cases, they are about the same as the “normal” flu, before evolving into a potentially fatal respiratory disease, which will require isolation and intensive care to be treated. It usually takes about three to five days for the first symptoms to appear if you’ve been infected by the virus. Early symptoms can include:

  • Nausea
  • Coughing
  • A very high temperature, feeling shivery
  • Muscle, stomach- and headaches
  • Chest pains
  • Diarrhea
  • Bleeding from the nose and gums
  • Conjunctivitis (aka pink eyes)

The latest news about bird flu: the most recent outbreak

The first avian influenza outbreak since 2017 has been confirmed in Europe on the 10th December 2019, at a chicken farm in Suffolk, United Kingdom. Over 27 000 birds were infected with the virus, although it is important to mention, that it isn’t the deadly H5N1: these birds carried the H5N8 strain, which is a lot less infectious when compared to its deadlier “big brother”. As such, the incident was classified by the authorities as “a low pathogenic avian flu” outbreak. The risk to public health has been established as “very low” by PHE (Public Health England),and the FSA (Food Standards Agency) has declared that there was no risk regarding food safety.

The English government has established a restriction zone of 1 km around the farm to control and limit the spread of bird flu. The chief veterinary officer, Professor Christine Middlemiss said: “We are urgently looking for any evidence of disease spread associated with this strain to control and eliminate it.” The investigation to determine the source of the outbreak is still ongoing. 

Dr. Colin Butter, associate professor and programme leader in Bioveterinary Science at the University of Lincoln added with a light touch of humor: "Christmas dinners are not under threat," referencing that infection can be easily avoided in the kitchen if you cook your meat well.

About two years ago, a similar incident occurred in Lancashire and Preston, where two flocks of pheasants (over 11 000 birds) had become infected with avian influenza. Other cases included 6000 infected turkeys in Lincolnshire, and two small backyards’ worth of chickens and ducks in North Yorkshire and Carmarthenshire.

Avian influenza: safe carcass disposal as the best solution

First and foremost, if you work with chickens, or you’re visiting a country that’s had a recent outbreak, you should avoid any and all contact with live birds, and wash your hands as often as you can. Use different utensils for handling raw meat and cooked meat, and cook any bird-based meat thoroughly, until it is steaming hot. You should also do your best to stay clear of raw eggs, live animal markets, and undercooked meat.

As with the recent outbreak in England, officials always suggest to have some sort of biosecurity on-site. Security measures like those we already listed are certainly a viable way to achieve that, but thanks to modern technology, you can have much more efficient and sage tools at your disposal to control animal diseases like the bird flu. In the case of avian influenza, carcass disposal is one of the best ways to get rid of infected animal waste. This might sound risky to you at first, but not if you have the right equipment. This is where Celitron’s Mobile AGRI Unit comes in play.

Our product uses medical-grade sterilization combined with a low energy environmental footprint, to bring a completely new way to handle the disposal of animal carcasses. Whether your poultry has become infected with avian influenza or any other disease is irrelevant, since after the rendering process, infectious animal waste becomes perfectly sterile. Not to mention it is a lot more practical than trying to take care of carcass transportation for incineration!