CBS NEWS – Brad Moline, a fourth-generation Iowa turkey farmer, saw this happen before. In 2015, a virulent avian flu outbreak nearly wiped out his flock.
Barns once filled with chattering birds were suddenly silent. Employees were anguished by having to kill sickened animals. The family business, started in 1924, was at serious risk.
His business recovered, but now the virus is back, again imperiling the nation’s poultry farms. And this time, there’s another pernicious force at work: a potent wave of misinformation that claims the bird flu isn’t real.
“You just want to beat your head against the wall,” Moline said of the Facebook groups in which people insist the flu is fake or, maybe, a bioweapon.
“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.”
“There is no ‘bird flu’ outbreak. It’s just COVID for chickens.” – Reddit user
While it poses little risk to humans, the global outbreak has led farmers to cull millions of birds and threatens to add to already rising food prices.
It’s also spawning fantastical claims similar to the ones that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic, underscoring how conspiracy theories often emerge at times of uncertainty, and how the internet and a deepening distrust of science and institutions fuel their spread.
The claims can be found on obscure online message boards and major platforms like Twitter.
Some versions claim the flu is fake, a hoax being used to justify reducing the supply of birds in an effort to drive up food prices, either to wreck the global economy or force people into vegetarianism.
Other posters insist the flu is real, but that it was genetically engineered as a weapon, possibly intended to touch off a new round of COVID-style lockdowns …