First Cases Of Bird Flu In Antarctica Mainland Discovered

by | Feb 27, 2024 | Environmental News, Research Updates

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Officials have verified that the first cases of bird flu in the Antarctica mainland have been discovered. Scientists have identified the H5N1 virus in two deceased scavenging birds known as skuas near the Primavera Base, the Argentine scientific research station on the Antarctic peninsula. This poses a potential threat to the extensive penguin colonies in the southern region.

The verified instance on the Antarctic peninsula, following cases on nearby islands, including among gentoo penguins, underscores the threat posed to colonies in the area by the H5N1 avian flu. This virus has led to significant declines in bird populations worldwide in recent months.

The Spanish CSIC report on Sunday stated, “This discovery demonstrates for the first time that the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza virus has reached Antarctica despite the distance and natural barriers that separate it from other continents.

These are the initial confirmed instances on the continent itself, indicating the virus’s spread in the region, likely transmitted by migratory birds. The H5N1 outbreak, responsible for the deaths of millions of wild birds globally since 2021, has now reached every continent except Oceania.

bird flu in the Antarctica mainland

In October of last year, avian flu reached the broader Antarctic region, initially reported on sub-Antarctic islands. The virus was first identified in the British overseas territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, situated approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 km) away from the continent of Antarctica. It was also detected in the Falkland Islands, located 600 miles northwest of South Georgia.

Analysis has conclusively shown that the birds were infected with the H5 subtype of avian influenza, and at least one of the dead birds contained the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus.” (Source: CSIC)

On Monday, the Antarctic Institute of Argentina announced that the country collaborated with Spanish researchers to examine samples from deceased birds discovered earlier in the year near the Argentine base. The tests confirmed the existence of the bird flu in Antarctica mainland.

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