In the Antarctic, animals are dying en me due to an epidemic of bird flu

Hundreds of elephant seals have died in the Antarctic in recent weeks. The reason is an epizootic of bird flu brought by migratory birds from South America. Scientists fear that the virus may spread to other Antarctic animals, such as penguins, and cause irreversible consequences.

In addition to sea elephants, the mortality of seals, seagulls and terns, which became the first victims of the disease, increased. The first cases of disease in these birds were registered at the end of October.

Bird flu has already been confirmed as the cause of animal deaths in eight regions of the Antarctic, The Guardian reports. Research is also being conducted in twenty regions. So far, the majority of deaths have been registered on the islands, but zoologists fear that the infection will spread to the Antarctic continent. This can threaten unique species that are not found anywhere else on Earth.

Scientists warned about the danger of bird flu epizootics in the Antarctic as early as the beginning of autumn. This is a consequence of the outbreak of infection in South America, which has been ongoing since October 2022. Since then, more than 500,000 wild birds of various species and about 20,000 mammals have died in Chile and Peru alone, according to the report of the international influenza research network OFFLU.

It is impossible to prevent the spread of infection, since seabirds and mammals live in large colonies, in which the virus is easily transmitted. It is brought from South America by migratory birds that fly to the polar region in October-November – this is the beginning of the Antarctic summer. In addition, it can also be carried by people who come to the Antarctic on ships: the polar summer is the tourist season, and the volume of tourism to this region is growing. If in the 2015-2016 season it was visited by about 38,500 people, then in the upcoming season more than 115,000 guests are expected.

As reported by Jane Rumble, the head of the department for the polar regions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Great Britain, precautions must be taken for tourists this season: their clothes will be thoroughly cleaned before landing on the shore, their shoes will be disinfected, and they will be advised not to approach the animals and birds

  • Bird flu, aka H5N1 flu, is dangerous for birds and mammals, including humans.

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