Deadly bird flu virus threatens wildlife in South America

Animal News : Bird flu kills nearly 1000 seals and sea lions in Brazil
A dead sea lion lies on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, Sao Jose do Norte, State of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, credit: Reuters/Diego Vara

The H5N1 bird flu virus, which arrived in South America in 2022, has been spreading rapidly among wild birds and marine mammals.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) gathered health experts to discuss the outbreak and is planning to establish a regional commission to oversee bird flu monitoring and response efforts.

The virus, previously known only to affect birds, is now being transmitted between mammals, killing dolphins, seals, sea lions, and birds across the continent. 

Concerns are growing about the possibility of mammal-to-mammal transmission, which could indicate an increased risk to humans.

Experts have noted the virus in various bird species, some of which are migratory, raising fears that the virus could spread even more. The changing climate and shifting animal territories could further increase the virus’s mutation and spread.

To date, there have been two confirmed human cases of H5N1 in South America, with both individuals surviving the infection. However, the global fatality rate for H5N1 in humans remains high, at around 60%. 

Researchers are actively studying the virus’s mutations in South America. A recent study highlighted the emergence of new mutations in the virus, which have been found in both wildlife and one of the human cases.

Previous articleAnimal lover devotes her life to helping dogs and cats in Tunisia 
Next articleAll world heat records broken in 2023 ‘Earth is issuing a distress call’