Sweden is set to cull 1.3 million chickens after an outbreak of the H5N5 and H5N8 variants of bird flu were identified on a farm near Monsteras.
The farm is the largest egg producer in the country, housing a huge number of birds which will be culled in the next couple of weeks.
In a statement, Sweden’s Board of Agriculture announced: “Unfortunately, the disease has spread within the facility which means that a large portion of all the animals, around 1.3 million, will be culled and destroyed.”
This news comes just one month after an outbreak of the same variant (H5N8) in the UK caused over 10,000 turkeys to be culled before Christmas.
Experts have been warning of the risk of virus outbreaks within intensive animal agriculture, naming it the ‘single most risky human behaviour’ for pandemics.
The world has been rocked by Covid-19, but scientists say this is just the ‘warm-up’ and it is likely that bird flu will be the next pandemic if we do not take drastic action.
What does this mean for the future?
Fortunately, the H5N5 and H5N8 variants have not yet been passed to humans. However, it is possible for bird flu to jump from birds to humans through droplets in the air that are breathed in, or when a person touches something that has the virus on it then touches their mouth, eyes or nose.
This is particularly alarming as the infection has a mortality rate of 60 per cent in humans. Moreover, it is of vital importance to the public that human infection and person-to-person spread is monitored closely as bird flu viruses could mutate and gain the ability to spread easily between people.
As Dr Justine Butler recommends, “Surely it’s time we started to consider the fact that our increased consumption of meat isn’t just wreaking havoc on our health and the environment, but threatens to spark new pandemics that could kill thousands, maybe millions, of people. It’s time to end factory farming before it ends us.”
Simply waiting for outbreaks to emerge and culling the birds is not an effective or sustainable solution, and we need to do better as a global society.
To find out more, read our article by Viva’s Dr Justine Butler:
Bird flu: How factory farming is helping spread this killer disease.