Argentina: Bird Flu Kills Hundreds of Flamingos

    Photo: Unsplash

    The Facts

    • Argentina has reported that an outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu virus has killed at least 220 flamingos in the country's north-western province of Catamarca.

    • The virus has so far infected flocks of the James's flamingo species (puna flamingo), which the International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies as "near threatened."

    The Spin

    Narrative A

    The loss of the rare flamingos is a significant blow to Argentina's biodiversity and ecosystem. Moreover, as the strain of H5N1 is spreading to an unprecedented number of countries, infecting and killing rare, wild, and backyard birds indiscriminately, it may ultimately spread to humans by infecting other hosts such as minks. The global community must contain the outbreak swiftly before it can break into a catastrophic human pandemic.

    Narrative B

    It's usual for bird flu to strike during autumn and winter. James's flamingos are migratory birds and the natural hosts of the H5N1 virus, which is the main factor in its spread this year. As we have only seen rare and non-sustained transmission of H5N1 to and between humans in prior decades, there's no need to create an alarmist, apocalypse scenario.

    Nerd narrative

    There's a 15% chance that at least one mink farm worker will die from any strain of bird flu in 2023, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

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