Feb. 3, 2023 – The massive bird flu outbreak that is responsible for skyrocketing egg prices now appears to be spilling over into mammals.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and its counterpart in the United Kingdom say the virus has been detected in mammals such as raccoons, foxes, bears, skunks, and even a cat in France. 

To date, 208 million birds worldwide have been affected as a result of the outbreak, including 58 million in the U.S., and at least 200 cases have now been found in mammals.

Most cases in mammals are thought to have occurred through scavenger behavior, where a raccoon, for example, ate an infected bird. However, an outbreak at a mink farm in Spain showed the virus may have been spreading among the animals, which causes concern for whether future mutations could create another human pandemic, according to The New York Times.

The current risk for bird flu to jump from mammals to humans is low, the World Health Organization says. Since the outbreak began in 2022, there have been 4 human cases and 1 death worldwide. One human case occurred in Colorado when a poultry worker was sickened after working with infected birds in April 2022.

The current bird flu outbreak involves an avian flu strain called H5N1. The WHO says scientific evidence indicates the strain does not currently have the capability to pass from one person to another. 

It is safe to eat properly handled and cooked poultry and eggs because cooking to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit kills bacteria and viruses, including H5N1 viruses, according to the CDC.


Show Sources

USDA: “2022-2023 Detections of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in Mammals.”

UK Health Security Agency: “Technical risk assessment as of 30 January 2023 for avian influenza (human health): influenza A H5N1, Updated 2 February 2023.”

BBC: “Bird flu 'spills over' to otters and foxes in UK.”

The New York Times: “An Even Deadlier Pandemic Could Soon Be Here.”

World Health Organization: “Influenza at the human-animal interface: Summary and risk assessment, from 12 November 2022 to 5 January 2023,” “Cumulative number of confirmed human cases for avian influenza A(H5N1) reported to WHO, 2003-2023.”

CDC: “U.S. Case of Human Avian Influenza A(H5) Virus Reported.”

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