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20 June, 2024
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Highly infectious bird flu threatens seals in Antarctica

Wildlife crisis as virus hits seabirds and mammals alike


Scientists are on high alert as a virus shows ominous signs of moving between birds and mammals, sparking concerns of potential mutations in 'spillover events.'

According to a Sky News report, this virus, suspected of causing mass deaths among South American sea lions and European fur farm mink and foxes, has also been detected in a few UK mammals.

However, there's reassuring news: no clear evidence of mammal-to-mammal transmission, according to APHA scientists.

Dr. Falchieri emphasizes the shared environment of these mammals and birds as the likely source of infection. Despite hopes that the vast Southern Ocean would shield Antarctica and South Georgia, the virus has been found in brown skuas, raising worries about its impact on Antarctic wildlife.

APHA's recent research identifies the virus in kelp gulls and Antarctic terns but, thankfully, not yet in penguins. Professor Ashley Banyard highlights relief but uncertainty about penguins' resistance, speculating on prior exposure or antibody responses from migrating birds.

While penguins elsewhere have fallen victim to this virus, fears mount as experts, like Norman Ratcliffe, warn of potential catastrophic consequences if the virus infiltrates the Antarctic continent.

Mass mortality events among unique species like Emperor penguins, Adelie penguins, and seals could have profound global repercussions, amplifying the challenges already faced by Antarctic wildlife due to climate change and retreating sea ice.

[With information sourced from Sky News]

Cyprus  |  seals  |  wildlife  |  penguins  |  birdflu  |  virus  |  Antarctica

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