Bird flu reaches Antarctica for first time, placing penguins in danger | EUROtoday

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A lethal pressure of hen flu has been discovered on mainland Antarctica for the primary time, in accordance with scientists, elevating issues over the chance of mass mortality of the continent’s enormous colonies of penguins and different animals discovered nowhere else on Earth.

Researchers on Feb. 24 confirmed the presence of the H5 subtype of avian influenza in two lifeless seabirds, referred to as skuas, close to an Argentine base and scientific analysis station situated on the Antarctic Peninsula, in accordance with the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).

“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,” officers mentioned Sunday.

Over the previous a number of years, the extremely infectious-disease has devastated each wild and home animal populations, making its means across the globe by way of the migratory routes of birds. Now the arrival of avian influenza on the southernmost continent threatens its distinctive wildlife, together with its iconic penguins.

The virus has confirmed potent sufficient to leap from birds to mammals, hanging elephant seals and different marine mammals that congregate on shore. It has made its option to each continent anticipate Australia.

“We’ve never seen such a massive spread of virus in wild birds, and we’ve never seen such massive infections of wild mammals,” Ron Fouchier, a virologist on the Erasmus University Medical Center within the Netherlands, mentioned final month.

For farms, the worldwide outbreak poses a excessive financial price because the virus kills thousands and thousands of chickens and different poultry birds. In the wild, the illness is threatening to upend ecosystems and edge endangered birds nearer to extinction.

Penguins on Antarctica could not have a lot immunity to the illness, because the virus has not been documented on the continent till now. Outbreaks amongst penguins in South America and Africa present their vulnerability. The birds, which prefer to waddle collectively in packed colonies, aren’t significantly good at social distancing.

Many penguins in Antarctica are already vulnerable to disappearing as rising temperatures deplete the ocean ice they should feed, breed and defend themselves. In 2022, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service mentioned the continent’s emperor penguins are threatened with extinction resulting from local weather change.

CSIC mentioned scientists obtained samples from the 2 lifeless skuas utilizing “maximum security measures to prevent transmission of the virus to people,” sending them by ship to the Spanish base on Deception Island for testing.

Avian influenza has been creeping towards the continent for months. There have been different suspected circumstances of hen flu on Antarctica in current weeks, in accordance with the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research. For many scientists, its arrival was inevitable.

In October, British scientists discovered the virus in brown skuas roughly 1,000 miles away from Antarctica on Bird Island within the British territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. And in January, on the Falkland Islands off the coast of Argentina, researchers discovered the flu in Gentoo penguins for the primary time. Another 35 penguins there have been discovered lifeless or displaying signs of the flu.