Avian flu has killed 58 million domestic poultry nationwide and caused egg prices to skyrocket. The federal government is now considering the approval of the bird flu vaccine.
According to the New York Times, officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have begun testing a potential avian flu vaccine and are discussing a possible large-scale vaccination program for poultry.
It would be the first program of its kind in the United States for avian flu, and a reversal on the USDA’s stance on vaccinating birds.
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This is the largest avian outbreak in history, infecting more than 6.2 million domestic poultry in Colorado.
The Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) is tracking the avian flu in other countries and found it has been spreading for more than two years. Colorado first saw the strain last year, and could see more cases come the spring.
“We do know that with migration starting to increase this month, we do expect that we're likely going to see another increase in cases this spring,” said Dr. Maggie Baldwin, state xeterinarian for the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
Bird flu infections in humans are rare, but there is growing concern about a mutation that could spread to humans.
The current avian flu has infected other animals like bears, mountain lions and foxes. A black bear in Huerfano County was euthanized after testing positive for bird flu in October, a skunk tested positive for it in November, and a mountain lion that died in Gunnison County was recently confirmed to have the disease, said Travis Duncan with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Since the avian flu vaccine is not approved for use in the U.S., the only measure that can be taken is to quarantine domestic birds from wild birds.
“This is a virus that is spread by wild birds, so it is essentially a flying vector of disease. And that's really hard to mitigate against,” Baldwin said.
The CDA is working with the USDA and Colorado State University to contact local farmers, as well as backyard bird owners, to implement biosecurity measures.
CDA is holding a public webinar March 15 at 5 p.m. for anyone with questions or who wants the latest information on the avian flu in Colorado.