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First instance of avian influenza detected in Antarctica region.
Science & Health

First instance of avian influenza detected in Antarctica region.

According to experts from Britain, the avian influenza virus has been found in the Antarctica region for the first time. This has raised concerns about the potential danger it may pose to penguins and other species native to the area.

Researchers were concerned that the most severe instance of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) ever recorded would make its way to Antarctica, a crucial habitat for numerous bird species.

The British Antarctic Survey reported that their employees collected samples from brown skua seabirds following their death on Bird Island, located in South Georgia, a British territory situated east of the southern tip of South America and north of Antarctica’s main landmass.

According to a statement released on Monday by the United Kingdom’s polar research institute, the tests were sent to Britain and yielded positive results.

It is probable that the virus was transmitted by birds who returned from their journey to South America, where there has been a significant outbreak of bird flu.

The statement mentioned that visitors to South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands are subject to stricter biosecurity measures, and that the scientific research involving birds in the area has been halted.

Bird flu outbreaks have been occurring regularly since the virus was first discovered in 1996.

Starting in mid-2021, there have been significant outbreaks that have spread to regions in South America that were previously unaffected. These outbreaks have resulted in widespread deaths of wild birds and the culling of tens of millions of poultry.

‘Devastating news’

According to Michelle Wille, a specialist in bird flu at the University of Melbourne, the transmission of the virus to Antarctica is extremely concerning.

She stated on X, previously known as Twitter, that the circumstances could alter quickly.

Ian Brown, the head of virology at the Animal and Plant Health Agency in the U.K., cautioned that there is a potential danger of the virus being transmitted by migrating birds from South America to the islands of Antarctica and eventually to the mainland.

According to the speaker, this may be a significant issue for bird populations like penguins that are exclusive to Antarctica.

Bird species like penguins, who have not encountered the virus before, would not have any previous protection against it, which could increase their susceptibility.

Fortunately, the Animal Plant Health Agency reported last week that initial studies have revealed that two types of seabirds, northern gannets and shag, have developed resistance to bird flu.

It is uncommon for humans to contract avian influenza, however, if they do, it is typically through direct exposure to infected birds.

In Cambodia, a toddler passed away from avian influenza at the beginning of this month, marking the third death from the virus in the country this year.

There is concern that the virus may evolve to become more easily spread between humans, as it has been found in an increasing number of mammals.