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An avian influenza outbreak has killed tens of millions of wild birds and poultry worldwide since 2020; the virus has also been found in some mammals.
In March, after an outbreak among poultry at a farm in England, two people tested positive for the bird flu. Neither had any symptoms and have since tested negative.
The U.K. Health Security Agency said the risk of bird flu in humans is low, and there’s no evidence of person-to-person transmission. It is monitoring the virus.
Microsoft Corp. co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates in October 2022 took part in a simulation designed to help leaders prepare for future outbreaks. In it, a fictional virus disproportionately affected children.
Two farm workers in England tested positive for bird flu recently. But that does not signify a new pandemic is spreading.
A May 18 Facebook post claimed otherwise. "It's starting!" said the headline on a video in the post. "The NEXT pandemic is here and children are the target, says Bill Gates."
The post had more than 730,000 views as of May 24.
The post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)
"Let’s get ready because the next pandemic is coming," said "Redacted" co-host Clayton Morris, opening the episode. He said that the World Health Organization said the COVID-19 pandemic is over, but we should brace for the next one.
"Right on cue," Morris said, "the U.K. government … announced it’s testing for a new avian flu outbreak." The video then played a clip of a Sky News report about two poultry workers in the United Kingdom testing positive for the avian flu.
"So the next pandemic might already be here, according to these clowns, and they’re telling us it’s going to be worse than before … and it’s going to specifically be targeting children," Morris said.
The U.K. government didn’t say the next pandemic may already be here in the form of the avian flu.
Avian influenza is a respiratory disease in birds caused by influenza A viruses. The viruses are classified in two categories: low pathogenic avian influenza and highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses, the latter of which is extremely deadly to infected poultry. It has affected more than 58 million birds in the U.S. since January 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
The U.K. Health Security Agency announced May 16 that two poultry farm workers in England taking part in an asymptomatic surveillance program for people who had come in contact with infected birds had tested positive for the bird flu.
Neither worker experienced any symptoms and have since tested negative, the agency said. An agency spokesperson told PolitiFact on May 24 that no one else has tested positive since.
Susan Hopkins, the agency’s chief medical adviser, said in the May 16 press release that current evidence suggests the influenza viruses circulating globally in birds don’t spread easily to people.
"Globally, there is no evidence of spread of this strain from person to person, but we know that viruses evolve all the time and we remain vigilant for any evidence of changing risk to the population," Hopkins said.
The risk of bird flu in humans is low, but the H5N1 strain has killed 458 people out of 874 cases in the past 20 years, the World Health Organization said. The CDC said in April 2022 that one person in Colorado who experienced fatigue tested positive for the bird flu but recovered. There have been no reported U.S. cases since.
We found no evidence that Gates said the next pandemic will target children, although he has consistently warned world leaders to prepare for future pandemics. In the video, Morris cited a simulation done in Belgium in October 2022 by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, the WHO and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation called "Catastrophic Contagion."
World leaders participated in a table-top exercise to respond to a new fictional virus that was deadlier than COVID-19 and disproportionately affected children. PolitiFact previously rated False a claim that originated on "Redacted" that said the simulation was preparation for a virus to be released in 2025.
As more so-called evidence that the next pandemic will target children, Morris cited a global childhood vaccination effort involving Chelsea Clinton, the World Health Organization and others. But that campaign, called "The Big Catch-up," aims to catch children up on routine childhood vaccinations skipped during the pandemic.
Morris also cited a July 19, 2022, article in Crain’s Chicago Business with the headline, "Children's hospitals prepare for the next pandemic." But that article described a network of children’s hospitals coordinating to learn from the COVID-19 pandemic to better prepare for future outbreaks. It did not mention the bird flu or suggest there is any imminent pandemic threat targeting children.
A video claimed that the next pandemic is already here, with a podcast co-host intimating that avian flu in the U.K. was the start of the next pandemic and suggesting that Bill Gates said it’s targeting children.
Two farm workers tested positive for the bird flu in England, but no health officials have suggested it represents the start of a new pandemic. And Gates did not say the next pandemic will target children.
We rate the claim False.
Facebook post, May 18, 2023
"Redacted," YouTube, "It's STARTING! The NEXT Pandemic is here & children are the target says Bill Gates | Redacted News," May 17, 2023
Gov.UK, "Bird flu (avian influenza): latest situation in England," accessed May 24, 2023
UK Health Security Agency, press release, "Avian flu detected in 2 individuals taking part in testing programme," May 16, 2023
Email exchange with spokesperson for the U.K. Health Security Agency, May 23, 2023
The Associated Press, "Bird flu detected in 2 poultry workers in the UK; no transmission between people," May 16, 2023
Sky News, "Bird Flu: 'No confirmed cases of human-to-human transmission' - UKHSA chief medical adviser," May 17, 2023
PolitiFact, "Simulation was not prep for a planned 2025 pandemic," May 5, 2023
PolitiFact, "Global vaccine catch-up effort involving Chelsea Clinton does not include forced vaccination," May 9, 2023
Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, "Catastrophic contagion," accessed May 23, 2023
Crain’s Chicago Business, "Children’s hospitals prepare for the next pandemic," July 19, 2022
The Atlantic, "The next stage of COVID is starting now," March 13, 2023
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Prevention and antiviral treatment of bird flu viruses in people," accessed May 23, 2023
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Highlights in the history of avian influenza (bird flu) timeline – 2020-2023," accessed May 24, 2023
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Influenza Type A Viruses," accessed May 24, 2023
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "H5N1 bird flu: current situation summary," accessed May 24, 2023
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "U.S. case of human avian influenza A(H5) virus reported," April 28, 2022
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "H5N1 bird flu detections across the United States (backyard and commercial)," accessed May 24, 2023
Reuters, "Vaccine makers prep bird flu shot for humans 'just in case'; rich nations lock in supplies," March 20, 2023
NBC News, "If bird flu starts to spread among people, existing vaccines may be inadequate, experts say," May 21, 2023
BBC, "Bird flu: What is it and what's behind the outbreak?," May 23, 2023
U.S. Department of Agriculture, "Fact Sheet: USDA continues partner engagement to mitigate highly pathogenic avian influenza for 2023 season," April 14, 2023
U.S. Department of Agriculture, "Protect your poultry from avian influenza," February 2022
World Health Organization, "Avian Influenza Weekly Update No. 896 ," May 19, 2023
World Health Organization, "Global partners announce a new effort – "The Big Catch-up" – to vaccinate millions of children and restore immunization progress lost during the pandemic," April 24, 2023
World Organisation for Animal Health, "Avian Influenza," accessed May 24, 2023
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