Unseen footage shows tragic impact of deadly bird flu as virus spreads in Australia

Across the world, the avian influenza continues to devastate farms, with an estimated half a billion birds now killed as a result of the virus's spread.

Drone footage taken by Mercy for Animals showing thousands of dead chickens at a poultry farm in Iowa, as bird flu spreads further throughout the world.
Shocking drone footage has shown the affect bird flu is having on farms, with 4.2 million chickens destroyed at a property in Iowa. Source: Mercy for Animals

WARNING - DISTRESSING CONTENT: Deeply confronting, never-before-seen drone footage has shown the devastating impact avian influenza is having on poultry farms all over the world, with the number of birds now killed as a result of the virus worldwide surging to half a billion.

For weeks, bird flu had only been detected at properties in Victoria in Australia, until Wednesday when a farm in NSW in the Hawkesbury district, north of Sydney, revealed the H7N8 strain was found among its animals. It's believed the spread was the result of a "spill-over" event, possibly from wild birds, with an estimated 100,000 chickens at the property to be euthanised as a result.

There are now eight farms in total across Australia that have detected the deadly virus in its poultry flocks — one in NSW and a seven in Victoria — which is known to cause severe symptoms and even death in the birds. It's believed that 1 million chickens and ducks will be euthanised in Victoria alone as a result of the worsening outbreak.

Drone footage taken by Mercy for Animals showing thousands of dead chickens at a poultry farm in Iowa, as bird flu spreads further throughout the world.
It's estimated that upward of half a billion birds have now been destroyed around the world as the virus continues to spread. Source: Mercy for Animals

While that figure is confronting, in the US, where the spread is much more pronounced and has even begun to spread among dairy cows, a single farm was forced to kill a staggering four million chickens after an outbreak. Drone footage captured by the Mercy For Animals group at an Iowa factory egg farm has shown mountains of chicken corpses piled up as staff work to dispose of the bodies.

In the vision, dump trucks are seen pouring hundreds of thousands of dead chickens at once into massive piles, with feathers strewn across the property as workers bury the animals in rows. According to the group, the farm was home to 4.2 million egg-laying chickens, each subsequently destroyed.

The disturbing scenes highlight the crushing impact avian flu is having on farms across America, where an estimated 97 million birds have been affected since 2022, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). US officials announced earlier in June that a third person had tested positive with the virus — a farm worker in Michigan who worked closely with sick cows.

On home soil, consumers have been told not to worry about eggs and poultry from the supermarkets with the outbreak not yet posing a risk to public health. Although the H5N1 potential pandemic strain remains the greatest threat to public health, the H7 variant can also spread to humans, as already seen in an infant returning from India to Melbourne earlier this month.

Speaking to Yahoo News Australia, Professor Enzo Palombo, food health and safety expert at Swinburne University, said "there's no need to panic" and "no real sense that anything significant is happening locally which we should be concerned about" for now.

But, there is growing evidence to suggest the virus "could come across to humans more readily", which "could end up being the start of the next pandemic". He said "the real concern from a public health point of view" will be if "what's happening in the US with mammals" occurs on home soil.

"What's most concerning is what's happening in the US with the dairy cattle, there have been documented transmissions from cattle to humans, most likely through milk," he said. "The virus seems to be infecting the udders and it seems to be shared through milk, which tests showed had live virus in it."

If the virus moves from cows to infect pig populations, Palombo said, "that scenario is much more frightening than any potential spread through food" as "pigs are notoriously the animals in which all these flu viruses tend to mix up and come out as new versions".

On Australian farms, avian flu has so far only been detected among chickens and ducks.

A man in hazmat holding a chicken and a sign warning of bird flu, as the virus spreads further across the country.
There are now a total of eight farms across the country that've detected bird flu - seven in Victoria in one in NSW. Source: Getty/ Victorian Government

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