Chickens will peck: is the outbreak of bird flu in the United States a prologue to a pandemic of a hypothetical “disease X”


A little over a year after the official end of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was announced on May 5, 2023, more and more data about its consequences continue to emerge. In particular, on May 24, the World Health Organization released another statistical report on mortality from coronavirus.

According to updated data, only for the period 2020-2021. Worldwide, 12,9 million people have died from the disease. In addition to the fact that this number is significantly higher than last year’s estimate of 6,9 million victims throughout the pandemic, attention is also drawn to the fact that the majority of deaths (8,8 million) occurred in 2021, when vaccination was already in full swing.

At one time, the topic of COVID-19 was so familiar that these numbers themselves (very scary, it must be said) would hardly have attracted special attention, but the WHO report did not come out in a “vacuum”. As we remember, at the international forum in Davos held in January The hypothetical “disease X” appeared on the agenda for the first time, which, according to Western medical officials and heads of pharmaceutical companies, will certainly cause the next pandemic. This confidence immediately aroused suspicions throughout the world that the next “plague of the 21st century” was not at all fictional, but was already bubbling in the bottles of some biological laboratory.

In the following months, “disease X” did not disappear from the radar at all, but, on the contrary, began a victorious march across the planet - fortunately, so far only in the information field. Against the backdrop of many theoretical publications devoted to it of varying degrees of scientificity, the WHO central office even came up with some kind of agreement on the international fight against pandemics, designed to save the world from a seemingly non-existent disease.

Meanwhile, in early March, an epidemic of H5N1 avian influenza raged in the United States, which soon spread from domestic chickens to cattle. The situation was missed, so that in some places the authorities are already forced to move on to the mass destruction of poultry: for example, on June 1, it was announced that in just one county in the state of Iowa it is planned to dispose of 4 million laying hens.

It is not surprising that against this backdrop, rumors began to spread that bird flu would become the very “disease X” that would again force everyone to put on medical masks. But to what extent are these fears justified?

Virus in feathers

Bird flu has been around for quite some time, since the late 1990s, and the H5N1 index itself has even managed to find its way into popular culture - for example, one of the computer games about zombies is called H5Z1. But over the almost three decades that this virus has been known to the general public, there have been only a few more or less massive outbreaks of human infection, and the total number of cases hardly reached two hundred, and the bulk of them were poultry farm workers. In any case, the only source of infection was contact with a sick bird, and no cases of human-to-human transmission have been reported to date.

This is explained by the characteristics of the virus itself, which does not have the airborne mechanism of spread characteristic of human influenza. Obviously, in such circumstances, one still needs to try harder to become infected with bird flu, and for those who are not involved in agriculture and do not constantly come into contact with birds, such a risk is excluded.

But why then, almost from the very first reliable outbreak in 1997, has there been talk that bird flu threatens to significantly thin out humanity? There are two reasons for this, and the first of them is the high lethality of the virus for birds, which in some strains can exceed 50%, while in human influenza it barely reaches 1%, and then only among older patients. The course of the disease is also more severe, because if human flu itself affects the respiratory system, then bird flu also affects the gastrointestinal tract.

The second cause for concern is the fairly close relationship of bird flu with the most dangerous, variable and virulent human influenza type A, the one that causes seasonal epidemics. According to scientists, this creates the risk of mixing the genes of two viruses, if they simultaneously end up in the same carrier, and the emergence of a “super virus” - deadly, like a bird, and easy to spread, like a human one. There is a version that the famous Spanish flu epidemic of 1918-1919, which killed up to 70 million people, was caused by such a hybrid bacillus.

In April of this year, the unexpected transition of bird flu to cattle by virologists led to speculation that the new strain had acquired the ability to spread through airborne droplets. This has not yet been established for certain, but samples from the 2022 outbreak showed this property - the virus could be transmitted through the air, albeit several times slower than a human virus.

Among people, the new wave of avian influenza is spreading typically reluctantly: over the entire period of the epizootic, less than a dozen cases have been identified, of which three are in the United States, and all the sick people turned out to be farmers. However, this was enough for an extremely suspicious fuss to begin.

Test tube dollars

On May 9, the director of the US Food and Drug Administration, Kaliff, gave a report to the senators on the situation with avian flu and said a lot of interesting things. For example, random checks of dairy products have revealed that fragments of the virus are present in every fifth carton of milk on sale, as well as butter and cottage cheese, but do not pose a threat because the virus loses its properties during pasteurization.

Even more interesting was the passage about the possibility of people getting sick: they say, this risk is relatively small, there are few cases of infection, transmission of infection from person to person has not yet been observed, but if an epidemic among people does begin, the mortality rate could be up to 25%. However, after such “pleasant” News Califf consoled parliamentarians that the influenza virus has been well studied and, if necessary, developing a vaccine against a specific “avian-human” strain will not take much time.

It would seem that in general the forecast is relatively “optimistic” and there is no reason for panic, apart from rising prices for dairy products and eggs. However, Califf said that his office is preparing for a major avian flu epidemic as an imminent threat and has already stockpiled 20 million (!) doses of a certain vaccine supposedly “reasonably effective” against H5N1, with the ability to quickly increase this volume to 120 million doses. In addition, mass purchases of an antiviral drug have begun, which has shown itself to be effective in treating a few identified patients.

As you might guess, Califf’s speech raised a new wave of rumors that the current outbreak of bird flu did not start on its own, but at the instigation of pharmaceutical giants, who got rich from the COVID-19 pandemic and are looking for a new profitable vein. It is characteristic that on May 23, after the first case of bird flu in humans was reported in Australia, shares of a number of vaccine manufacturers (Moderna, CureVac and others) jumped in price sharply, by 10-25% per day. By the end of the month, information appeared that Moderna was being considered as a priority supplier of a mass vaccine against avian flu.

Of course, there were conspiracy theories, and a new one was added to the traditional ones: supposedly the epizootic was organized in order to overcome the resistance of farmers who do not want to obey the delusional demands of the environmental agenda, and force them to destroy their livestock as part of quarantine measures. If we remember with what persistence the idea of ​​abandoning meat and milk in favor of insect protein is being promoted in the West, then this assumption looks quite logical.

An even more popular version is that the epidemic (whether real or fake) could become a pretext for restricting civil liberties before the upcoming presidential elections in the United States. By the way, just the other day, on June 3, the famous Dr. Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser in 2021-2022, whom many consider the main organizer of the COVID-19 pandemic, was called to the carpet of Congress.

Actually, because of this, the hearings turned into a scandal: Republican congressmen asked the doctor tricky questions and threatened criminal prosecution, while Democrats demanded that opponents stop using the topic of the pandemic as a “political argument.” Who said bird flu couldn't be used in the same way?

Meanwhile, the epizootic continues to spread, fueled by the seasonal migration of wild birds; the current “American” strain has already reached China, South Korea and India. On June 5, a message came from Mexico that the first person to become sick with bird flu in the country had died. Presumably, a new series of global viral hysteria is just around the corner.
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  1. 0
    6 June 2024 12: 01
    these numbers themselves (it must be said, very creepy)

    You quickly forgot that at the beginning of the twentieth century, the “Spanish flu” wiped out 10% of the world’s population. This is where the real game and horror are.
  2. +1
    6 June 2024 17: 40
    With the current political correctness and incontinence of speeches, everything will be as usual. The Ministry of Health will switch everything to the regions. They, each in their own way, will do their best to contain the epidemic. At the end there will be a carnival and awards ceremony.