Conspiracy theories about the avian bird flu outbreak are on the rise

The avian (bird) flu is back and putting the nation's poultry farms at risk, and farmers aren't only having to deal with the prospect of killing sickened animals, but a wave of conspiracy theorists claiming the bird flu isn't real, NBC Los Angeles reports.

“You just want to beat your head against the wall,” said fourth-generation Iowa turkey farmer Brad Moline of Facebook groups where people claim bird flu is fake or 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."

The outbreak has caused conspiracy theories to rise similar to those that circulated throughout the COVID pandemic. Some versions of the conspiracy theory say the flu is a hoax being used to justify reducing the supply of birds in an effort to drive up food prices or force people into vegetarianism. “They’re testing the animals for bird flu with PCR tests. That should give you a clue as to what’s going on,” wrote one Twitter user in a highly engaged tweet.

As NBC Los Angeles points out, the false claims are the natural result of failing trust in many American institutions, including the news media and science.

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“There isn't a phenomena on the planet, whether it’s the avian flu or 5G, that isn’t already primed for conspiracists,” said John Jackson, dean of the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. “Now we have coronavirus, which has traumatized us so profoundly ... we look at this same idea of bird flu with completely new eyes, and we bring different kinds of conspiracy to it.”