New Study Warns of Deadly Outbreak of Bird Flu and Recommends Management Approach Based on Structured Decision-Making

A new study has warned that a new outbreak of bird flu may be the deadliest to date. In contrast to the avian flu (H5N8) outbreak of 2015, the recent outbreak in late 2021 (H5N1) has resulted in widespread deaths among wild birds, making it more challenging to eradicate the highly pathogenic virus. The virus is now heavily impacting wild birds, with dramatic disease impacts in raptors, sea birds, and colonial nesting birds. The research team recommends a management approach based on a method called Structured Decision-Making, which is similar to the way human pandemics are managed. The team also suggests H5N1 will likely become endemic, potentially posing risks to food security and the economy.[0]

The severe toll on wild birds and a marked shift from seasonal to year-round infections signal dangerous changes in the nature of bird flu outbreaks.[1] “We’ve been dealing with low pathogenic avian influenza for decades in the poultry industry, but this is different,” said co-author Jennifer Mullinax, an assistant professor of Wildlife Ecology at the University of Maryland.[2] The information further indicates a change from a disease that occurs only during certain seasons to one that persists throughout the year.[0] Previous outbreaks of avian influenza, whether low-pathogenic virus that is endemic in the U.S. or highly pathogenic H5N8 in 2015, typically occurred in the fall, which meant farmers could prepare for seasonal outbreaks, cull flocks to halt the spread of disease, and have nearly a full year to recover losses. However, this novel virus seems to persist throughout the year, as evidenced by the identification of the disease in wild birds during the summer and the outbreak among poultry in both spring and autumn.[0]

The virus has been found in numerous types of birds such as buzzards, golden eagles, gannets, and gulls.[3] The skua population in Scotland has suffered a loss of over 40%, while Greece has seen thousands of Dalmatian pelicans perish.[3] The UK's National Trust estimates that between 30,000 and 50,000 birds in the wild may have perished due to bird flu on the Farne Islands.[3] The team warns that the highly pathogenic virus is wiping out everything in numbers that we’ve never seen before, and suggests that it is a worst-case scenario.[1]

Although declaring a disease endemic is a complicated process, the authors of the study suggest that the US will likely follow patterns seen in Europe where highly pathogenic avian influenza is already being treated as an endemic disease rather than something that can be eradicated.[4] The researchers suggest implementing a management approach based on the methodology of Structured Decision-Making in order to tackle this challenge. To implement this strategy, it is necessary to gather important stakeholders who possess relevant expertise, experience, or personal interests. It is important to distinguish between what is already known and what is unknown, and to establish precise goals and measurable actions that result in quantifiable outcomes.

The team warns that the virus has sent the price of eggs soaring, and restrictions to prevent the spread of bird flu were lifted just days ago to allow free-range eggs to return to supermarket shelves.[5] Since November, bird keepers all over the country have been mandated to confine their flocks indoors in order to minimize the transmission of avian flu.[5] The warning comes as more wild birds than ever before have been killed by this outbreak, with sea birds being especially hard hit.[6]

In conclusion, the new outbreak of bird flu is sweeping across the world and may be the deadliest to date. The virus is now heavily impacting wild birds, posing risks to food security and the economy. The shift from a seasonal disease to a year-round one, the severe toll on wild birds, and the increase in the price of eggs are all warning signs that the situation needs to be addressed urgently. The management strategy recommended by the researchers, based on Structured Decision-Making, could help address the challenge by bringing together relevant individuals with an interest, expertise, or stake in the issue to establish measurable goals and actions with quantifiable results. It is important that federal agencies, state agencies, the agriculture sector, and wildlife management deal with this together, as the situation is now a worst-case scenario.[7]

0. “New Research Says This Bird Flu is Different and Requires Urgent Response” Revyuh, 19 Apr. 2023,

1. “Deadly bird flu outbreak requires urgent coordinated response”, 20 Apr. 2023,

2. “Current avian flu strain deadlier, may become endemic: Study” WION, 20 Apr. 2023,

3. “New bird flu killing more wild birds than ever before” KTBS, 19 Apr. 2023,

4. “Scientists say new avian influenza requires urgent coordinated response”, 19 Apr. 2023,

5. “Scientists issue warning over deadly virus spreading across species in UK” Daily Record, 19 Apr. 2023,

6. “Bird flu may be worse than ever — killing eagles and jumping to mammals” Study Finds, 19 Apr. 2023,

7. “Maryland Today | Why This Bird Flu Is Different” Maryland Today, 19 Apr. 2023,

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