Bird flu is a bit of a misnomer at this point. The virus, which primarily infects birds, has spread uncontrollably around the world, devastating not only birds but also large swaths of the animal kingdom.fox, bobcat, pig got sickA grizzly bear has gone blind.sea creatures such as sticker and sea liondied in large numbers.
But no animal has been so sick as the mink. In October, an outbreak of avian flu on mink farms in Spain killed thousands of animals. It was then revealed that the virus had picked up mutations that helped it spread between animals and grow in mammals.it was probably for the first time Its mammal-to-mammal spread caused an outbreak of bird flu. As minks are known to spread certain viruses to humans, there was concern that the disease could be transmitted from minks to humans. No one has been sick in an outbreak in Spain, although mink has spread to humans before. In 2020, due to his COVID outbreak on a mink farm in Denmark, A mink-related subspecies that spreads among a small number of humans.
As mammals, we have good reason to worry. Outbreaks in dense mink farms are the ideal scenario for bird flu to mutate. In doing so, it could trigger another global pandemic if it gains the ability to spread among humans. There are many reasons to worry, minks are a problem that cannot be ignored right now.
Although two animals with very different body types, minks and humans share some unusual similarities.Studies Suggest We Share Similar Receptors COVID, bird flu, human flu, these viruses can enter our body. His numerous COVID outbreaks on mink farms early in the pandemic and the bird flu outbreak in Spain solemnly illustrate this point. James Lowe, professor of veterinary medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana and his School of Champaign, said it’s “not surprising” that minks get these respiratory diseases, which are closely related to ferrets. It is known to be susceptible to human influenza. A go-to model for influenza research.
Minks won’t get sick very often and won’t be too much of a problem for humans if they aren’t kept in the best conditions for their development and kept for their fur. Many of them are partially outdoors, where infected wild birds may come into contact with animals and share not only air but also food. Mink farms are also notoriously cramped. For example, farms in Spain held tens of thousands of minks in about 30 barns. In such situations, transmission of the virus is almost guaranteed, but animals are particularly vulnerable.Since minks are usually solitary creatures, they face great stress in a crowded barn and can become susceptible to disease. Angela Bosco Laut, a professor of biomedical sciences at Colorado State University, told me. There is a possibility that Bosco-Lauth said the frequency that occurs among minks “could actually have something to do with the fact that they don’t really have much to do with the animals and they keep them in the same way… intensive We have cattle farms and chickens,” he said.
So far, there is no evidence that minks on Spanish farms spread bird flu to humans. No workers have tested positive for the virus, and no outbreaks have been reported at other mink farms since then. Our avian flu receptors are hidden deep in our lungs, but when exposed to the virus, most viruses are trapped in the nose, throat and other parts of the upper respiratory tract. This is why bird flu infections are so uncommon in humans, and when they do occur, they are often as severe as pneumonia. of humans have fallen ill and died from bird flu. this month, Cambodian girl Died of virus due to possible encounter with sick bird. The more the virus circulates in the environment, the more likely it is that a person will become infected. “It’s a matter of dose,” Rowe said.
However, our susceptibility to bird flu can change. Another mink outbreak would give the virus even more opportunity to continue to mutate. I worry that this will create new mutants that bind better to the flu receptor. said it would be easier. These mutations “will worry us the most”. he added.
Since mink has receptors for both avian and human influenza,mixing container“For the virus to bind,” the researchers wrote in 2021. (Ferrets, pigs, and humans also share this property.) reassortment, the influenza virus can swap segments of its genome, resulting in a sort of Frankenstein pathogen. , and it’s not a risk worth taking. “Before three flu pandemics All were caused by a mix of avian and human flu viruses,” Peacock said.
There are good reasons to worry about mink, but it’s hard to say how much to worry, especially given how little we know about this mutating virus. The World Health Organization describes the global bird flu situation asanxiety,” claims the CDC, Risk to public is lowMr Lowe said it was “certainly not that dangerous” for bird flu to spread to humans, but it’s worth paying attention to.H5N1 bird flu is not new and still affects large numbers of people Not given, he added. However, the virus has already mutated to make it more infectious to wild birds, and as it spreads in the wild, it may continue to mutate to become more infectious to mammals, including humans. “We don’t understand it well enough to reliably predict public health risks,” said Jonathan Ranstadler, professor of infectious diseases at Tufts University.
As bird flu continues to spread among domestic and wild animal populations among birds, it will become increasingly difficult to control. It already exists year-round and could become similar in the Americas. Breaking the chain of transmission is essential to prevent new pandemics. An important step is to avoid situations in which humans, mink, or other animals can be infected with both human and avian influenza at the same time.
Since the COVID outbreak, mink farms have generally increased their biosecurity. masks and protective clothing, disposable overalls, etc. To limit the risk to mink and other susceptible hosts, farms should reduce their size and density, reduce contact between mink and wild birds, and monitor for viruses, Runstadler said. rice field. Mexico, Ecuador, recently adopted an avian influenza vaccine for poultry In the light of occurrence. An H5N1 vaccine is also available for humans, but not immediately. Still, one of the most obvious options is to close mink farms. “Maybe they should have done it after SARS-CoV-2,” said Bosco Roth of Colorado.However, doing so is debatable as the global mink industry is valuable and China has a huge market. 40% of the world’s mink furwhich temporarily banned mink breeding in 2020 after the spate of COVID outbreaks, although the ban expired last month and farms are back, in limited capacity.
Minks aren’t the only animals that pose a risk of bird flu to humans. “Frankly, given what we’re seeing in other wildlife species, there really aren’t any mammals I can ignore at this point,” Bosco-Lauth said. Mammalian species that are repeatedly infected with viruses are a potential risk, including; But animals that humans come into frequent contact with, especially those kept in high densities, such as pigs, should be of most concern, he said. This poses not only a public health concern for humans, but also the potential for “ecosystem disruption,” he said. Bird flu has become a devastating disease for wildlife, killing animals ruthlessly and quickly.
Whether or not bird flu infects humans, it won’t be the last virus to threaten us or our minks. Defined, as my colleague Ed Yong called it, by the regular spread of the virus to humans. This is caused by disruption of the normal trajectory of viral movement in nature. Minks may never pass bird flu to us. But that doesn’t mean the next time a new flu virus or coronavirus hits, there will be no risk. Doing nothing about mink essentially means choosing luck as a public health strategy. Sooner or later it will be gone.