People outside the poultry industry have better understood the emergence of new strains of bird flu as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said. Julie Helm, Clemson University Poultry Veterinarian and Inspector of the South Carolina National Poultry Improvement Program (NPIP).

In a recent podcast, Helm addressed the current outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), another widespread outbreak in 2015, and a minor outbreak that hit South Carolina in 2020. She said she is confident that strains that appeared seven years ago no longer exist in the United States, but will be prevalent this year in North America, as new ones have emerged.

The podcast titled “Surviving HPAI” was hosted by Balchem. Helm believes that the threat of bird flu will continue in North America, and she said there is always a risk that low-pathogenic bird flu will mutate into highly pathogenic strains. The virus is constantly changing due to mutations, and new mutations can give rise to new variants of the virus. She said she didn’t understand bird flu in previous outbreaks, but now that she sees how the Omicron variant of COVID-19 develops as a result of the mutation.

Related article: The worst bird flu epidemic in EU history

“When I explain it to people, we understand COVID because your layman understands the various varieties, quarantines, vaccinations, all these terms we always had to explain. It’s easier to get through. You get it now with COVID, so I’m saying it’s like a brand new strain, COVID-19 & bird flu. Birds aren’t immune to it and it starts to spread after it gets infected, “Helm explained.

So far, in 2022, HPAI has affected more than 40 million poultry and backyard poultry in the United States and more than 2 million poultry in Canada. However, the spread of the virus slowed, with the last commercial case confirmed in Canada on July 9th and the last commercial case in the United States on June 9th.

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