Science & Tech

Antarctic Scientists Sound Alarm on Deadly Bird Flu Outbreak Amid Confirmed Penguin Cases

© AFP 2023 Mark Ralston Пингвин Адели рядом с исследовательской станцией New Harbor в Антарктике
Пингвин Адели рядом с исследовательской станцией New Harbor в Антарктике - Sputnik India, 1920, 15.03.2024
The presence of the deadly H5N1 avian influenza virus in Antarctica was officially confirmed last month after it was detected in local penguin and cormorant populations on the frozen continent's mainland.
Scientists in Antarctica have warned of the spread of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus after several cases were confirmed in penguins and Antarctic cormorants.
According to a media report, the Chilean Antarctic Institute (INACH), the organiser of the expedition, announced this week that it had discovered new cases of bird flu in the region.
The discovery is particularly significant as it includes cases in penguins, which it described as a "landmark" find.
Fabiola Leon, a researcher from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile who was part of an expedition to monitor for bird flu in Antarctica in late 2023 and early 2024, revealed that the virus was first found in skua seabirds on the Antarctic mainland last month. Nine Adelie penguins and one Antarctic cormorant tested positive for the H5N1 bird flu virus.
Leon said species such as emperor penguins and other birds were threatened with extinction.

"This detection of highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza is the first reported in Antarctic penguins and cormorants," Leon said.

He warned that the crowded nature of penguin colonies and migratory movements could increase the rate of disease transmission between different bird colonies in Antarctica.
The rapid spread of the virus has had devastating consequences for bird populations around the world, particularly affecting wild birds and marine mammals in South America.
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