In the past three years, a fatal type of avian influenza has been prevalent across the globe, that fell birds across the continents of Asia, Europe, and Africa. It then went across the seas and brought forward the most lethal bird flu outbreak in the US so far.
H5N1 is the virus that we are talking about. The virus has reached South America. The virus has come to the Pacific coast and has killed marine mammals and wild birds in huge numbers. For instance, if one sees the records of Chile and Peru, more than 500,000 seabirds have died due to the virus. The outbreak has also led to the death of 25,000 sea lions, as per a new report.
Scientists are currently tensed about the fact that the virus will be coming to Antarctica along with Australia. Only these two continents do not have cases of the pathogen as yet. The report alarmed by saying that the negative implications of the virus on Antarctic wildlife could actually be immense, even worse than it was on the wildlife of South America.
In Antarctica, more than 100 million birds breed. Moreover, there are numerous marine mammals swimming in the surrounding waters. The Antarctic fur seal and the emperor penguin are actually some of the species that assemble together in huge colonies. On this, Dr. Ralph Vanstreels, a Latin American wildlife health program researcher at the University of California, Davis stated that this crowding of birds could actually be a recipe for disaster.
The bird flue variant
It was in the year 2020 that this bird flu variant came up. It has resulted in huge outbreaks, especially on poultry farms, which has led to the death of approximately 60 million farmed birds in the United States. Moreover, what makes this worse is the fact that this virus has also spread significantly in wild birds, and in wild mammals as well.
The first instance
It was in October 2022 when the virus emerged in South America for the very first time. It spread from Colombia to Chile in the time frame of just three months. Dr. Marcela Uhart stated that when the pathogen started moving south, it rushed very rapidly.
Tallying the casualties
Calculating the casualties is a difficult task as there are many infected animals that never get detected. However, it is safe to say that hundreds of thousands of dead seabirds were reported in South America. The list includes cormorants, gulls, boobies, and more. If one looks at the calculation, one would find that about 36 percent of the Peruvian pelican population in Peru, along with 13 percent of the Humboldt penguin population of Chile has been affected.
The sea lions in South America have also been affected greatly.