The fowl flu outbreak has taken an ominous flip

Turkeys stand in a barn at Yordy Turkey Farm in Morton, Illinois

Enlarge (credit score: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg by way of Getty Pictures)

This week, Argentina and Uruguay declared nationwide well being emergencies following outbreaks of extremely pathogenic avian influenza H5N1, the fast-moving virus that destroys poultry flocks and wild birds and for many years has been feared as a doable spark for a pandemic amongst individuals. That makes 10 South American international locations which have lately marked their first-ever encounter with the virus, together with Peru—the place greater than 50,000 wild birds died final fall, and greater than 600 sea lions in January. Mix the sea-lion infections with the revelation that H5N1 flu invaded a mink farm in Spain in October, and well being authorities should now confront the chance that the unpredictable virus might have tailored to threaten different species.

To be clear, this doesn’t but embrace individuals. Though previous many years have witnessed fowl flu outbreaks that unfold to people, solely two instances have been recognized up to now 12 months: a Colorado grownup final Could, and a 9-year-old lady in Ecuador in January. (Neither died.) And there’s no proof but that the virus has been in a position to soar from newly contaminated mammals to individuals. However the truth that it was transmitted from birds to mammals, after which unfold amongst them, signifies a disquieting pattern.

Learn 15 remaining paragraphs | Feedback