What does this mean for the general public? Although avian flu is a zoonotic disease like COVID-19, the risk to human health is very low, and cases in humans have almost exclusively arisen from close contact between bird keepers and their stock. The advice for the public is not to touch any dead birds you see and to report them.
If you feed wild birds, remember to wash and disinfect feeders every week and to clean bird baths every day, as avian flu is mainly transmitted via saliva and droppings. And if you’re out walking the dog, keep a closer eye on them when you’re on the beach or by water, and use a lead when you’re on a nature reserve or see a dead bird.
There is no doubt that the increased visibility of the deaths will bring home the scale of the problem to the general public. Bird flu has now “arrived” in our minds, and will take on more prominence as the summer continues and holidays begin. Though the risk to humans is very low, it serves as another reminder of how connected we are to nature, and how our interactions with the natural world have huge consequences for what we regard as “human” systems.