How worried should we be about bird flu spreading to humans?

Bird Flu
The avian influenza has killed more than six million domestic turkeys and chickens in Minnesota since early 2022.
Charlie Neibergall | AP 2023

The H5N1 avian flu has jumped from poultry to goats in Minnesota. In other states, the virus has spread to cattle. In Texas this week, a man contracted the so-called bird flu after coming into contact with infected cows.

Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, says the risk to humans remains low despite the emergence of a confirmed human case.

“The virus doesn’t have the right lock and key to get into our cells as it does the bird cells and so the virus has to change some to have that happen,” he explained.

Nonetheless, Osterholm emphasized the importance of being prepared for the next pandemic. “Pandemics are inevitable,” he said. “They’re going to keep happening.”

To hear the full conversation, click play on the audio player above.

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