Avian flu devastating U.S. poultry supply

AvianBirdFluHave you wondered why poultry has lately become the best meat buy in the U.S?

Undoubtedly, the primary reason is because a devastating avian flu, the most virulent strain called H5N2,  is sweeping the country with no end in sight.

The flu epidemic was first identified in Boise, Idaho in back yard chickens.

The count of dead birds (turkeys and chickens) as of May 7 was 24 million.

Iowa and Minnesota farms are the hardest hit states, followed by Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas, Montana, North and South Dakota, Oregon, Washington, Texas, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Texas and California.

Several state governors have declared states of emergency, as the avian disease has decimated at least 120 farms, a few with more than a million birds.

The disease disaster indiscriminately strikes both layers and meat birds.

The U.S. government has allocated $300 million in emergency funds and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is scrambling to develop an effective vaccine. But researchers fear that the strain mutates so quickly that it may outpace any vaccines.

Even if a vaccine renders treated birds immune to the spreading disease, it could infect other birds, said Henry Wan, an influenza virologist at Mississippi State University.

It is not known if the disease can affect other species, including humans.

(To learn more about the problems created in vaccinating poulty for avian flu, you can read a related Wired article here.)

According to Business Insider, the lucrative poultry business has already suffered tremendous losses, and hundreds of workers have been laid off. Dozens of countries have partially or totally banned U.S. poultry imports. Total bans to date have been imposed by China, Russia, S. Korea, Angola and Taiwan, with others expected to follow suit, barring a miraculous halt to the rapid spread of the deadly epidemic.

Who knows how this will play out.

Poultry, along with fish, has long been touted as the ‘healthful’ meat, to be preferred over red meat. But with poultry raised in unnatural, crowded conditions and fed unnatural food, including antibiotics to increase their growth and productivity, and sea creatures dying off by the billions from Fukishima radiation and other ocean pollution, a ‘waterloo’ of food seems inevitable.

We may all need to learn and re-think our modern food systems and needs.

Sources: Wired.com, Reuters.com.

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