On December 22, four wild swans and a common stork turned up dead next to the Segre riverbed, in Lleida. We didn’t know, but it was the first domino in a chain reaction that has ended up “confining” poultry in half a dozen communities autonomous and that may end up forcing the sacrifice of thousands of copies in the coming months.
It’s not the first time it happens. Without going any further, the Generalitat de Catalunya confined all the poultry in the Empordá after detecting three dead wild birds in the Aiguamolls Natural Park. In 2020, there were three H5N8 outbreaks in the country and entire counties banned outdoor poultry farming. For this reason, many people wonder if this wave of confinements (1, 2, 3, 4 Y 5) is not an exaggeration.
The answer, as is often the case, lies in the story; but it is not necessary to travel decades in the past. just visit southwestern France in the early days of 2017.
LESS than 100 DAYS for HERD IMMUNITY: Towards a FUTURE without PANDEMIC
birds of ill omen
France, which by January of that year had already recorded 95 H5N8 outbreaks, woke up to images of a small farm in Latrille, a two-hour drive from the Spanish border. They showed how farm workers, dressed in suits, masks and safety glasses, took 8,000 ducks one by one and placed them in colored metal containers filled with carbon dioxide. They were just a few of the first thousands to be slaughtered.
In the following days, more than 800,000 birds were slaughtered to contain the epidemic. At that point it was the only way to protect the 18 million ducks in the southwest of the country. These are super contagious strains that move very fast and, although fortunately they do not thrive in humans, they are capable of destroying an industry in a matter of weeks. We met H5N8 like this, in fact: when it brought down Ireland’s poultry farm after forcing the slaughter of more than 270,000 birds due to an outbreak that had gotten out of control.
In the current case it is not H5N8, but H5N1; but the problem is the same especially since since 2003, outbreaks of this variant “are unmatched by previous ones, given their scale and geographic distribution.” Five birds in a river south of Lleida deserve to be worried.
As we explained a few months ago, while we were fighting against COVID-19 and beyond the economic problems that it can bring, there are several strains of influenza that have shown their potential as a “serious public health problem”. Among the many things that the coronavirus pandemic has exposed is the fact that we know very little about the viruses that circulate through society until the outbreaks have already begun.
And it is that taking epidemiological threats seriously is expensive and complex, but it is something to which we are going to be progressively devoted over the years. We are already seeing the first steps and everything indicates that they will not be the last.