The bird flu has been detected in the United States, raising more questions and concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The news: A recent lab analysis from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that the Asian strain of H5N1 avian influenza — commonly known as the bird flu — was recently discovered in a South Carolina duck.

  • This is the first sighting of the bird flu in the U.S. in years.
  • The USDA found two more birds — which had been shot by hunters — carried the same H5N1 avian influenza pathogen.
  • Officials are warning hunters to be wary of potential bird flu symptoms in their flocks as they monitor the potential outbreak of avian influenza.

Why it matters: “It is far too soon to say whether the arrival of this virus in the U.S. is a blip, an imminent danger to agriculture, or a zoonotic pathogen probing for a path to attack humanity,” according to Wired. “But it is a reminder that Covid is not the only disease with pandemic potential, and of how easy it is to lose focus when it comes to other possible threats.”

No one knows how a Chinese man got infected with the H10N3 bird flu
China reports first H10N3 bird flu cross-species transmission to humans

Another pandemic: Officials said it’s unlikely that the bird flu — which is spreading through Israel’s bird population right now — will rival COVID-19 in terms of a pandemic, per Haaretz.

  • However, “it is still a possibility that must be prepared for by the government and public health authorities,” Haaretz reports.
  • “The risk is always there and is always substantial and as long as humans are in close contact with birds. Then the risk of an event during which high pathogenic avian flu will infect a human and will become transmissible between humans is always possible,” said Eyal Leshem, director of the Center for Travel Medicine and Tropical Diseases at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, to Haaretz.

Flashback: The bird flu has been a potential virus for years. It grew a lot of media attention back in the early aughts.

But this isn’t the only bird flu we’ve seen. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there are plenty of avian influenzas, most marked by the “H” and “N” in their names.

  • These letters are used to identify avian influenzas representing different hemagglutinin and neuraminidase proteins of the specific virus.

For example, in June 2021, a Chinese man become ill with what many considered to be the first human case of H10N3 avian influenza, as I reported for the Deseret News.

  • “This infection is an accidental cross-species transmission,” Chinese authorities said in a statement at the time, the AP reported. “The risk of large-scale transmission is low.”