Capital Clicks

Nationwide bird flu outbreak leads to online conspiracies

By: - May 20, 2022 10:53 am

Hens in cages (Photo via Getty Images)

A nationwide outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza, or bird flu, has struck poultry farms, backyard chicken coops and wild flocks of birds. Nearly 38 million birds have been culled in 35 states, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Yet despite the horrific effects the disease has had on the state’s flocks, the wallets of poultry farmers and, potentially, on already rising food prices, conspiracy theories have popped up online that it’s a hoax or a biological weapon.

“You just want to beat your head against the wall,” Iowa turkey farmer Brad Moline told the Associated Press. “I understand the frustration with how COVID was handled. I understand the lack of trust in the media today. I get it. But this is real.”

Posts on mainstream social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as online message boards have alleged the outbreak is designed to reinstitute COVID lockdowns or blame 5G cell towers for the disease.

“There is no ‘bird flu’ outbreak,” one post on Reddit stated. “It’s just Covid for chickens.”

The first confirmed cases of bird flu in Iowa were reported  in Pottawattamie County in March. Since then, more than 13.3 million birds have been culled from 15 affected flocks.

The outbreak has led to the quarantine of bird populations. Poultry shows and exhibitions were been canceled, ahead of summer fair season. In Iowa, the virus has been waning, with the last confirmed outbreak on May 2 in a backyard flock in Bremer County.

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Henry Redman
Henry Redman

Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.