Terra Verde

Understanding the Ongoing Bird Flu Crisis

photo on a red chicken with a few other hens in the background
So far H5N1 has led to a record loss of some 80 million birds across 47 US states, with California being hit the hardest of all. Photo by Vale CS/Flickr.

The new year has started off in crisis mode for poultry farms across California, as a wave of avian influenza sweeps across the state forcing farmers to euthanize several million chickens and ducks. The heartbreaking losses spell financial devastation for farms and also have the potential to trickle down to consumers, as prices for poultry and eggs go up due to supply chain disruptions. But the impact of the H5N1 virus has been far worse for wildlife. In recent months it has jumped from bird to many mammals as well and is now killing off species in every continent except Australia and Antarctica.

To understand more about this unprecedented panzootic — pandemic among animals — that could potentially spillover into the human world as well, Earth Island Journal editor and Terra Verde-cohost Maureen Nandini Mitra speaks with two avian influenza experts from the University of California, Davis’ School for Veterinary MedicineDr Marcela Uhart and Maurice Pitesky.