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  • #46

    Urgent Message from WCS as the Avian Influenza Virus Threatens Wildlife Across the Globe

    Massive Die-Off of Elephant Seals in Argentina Due to Avian Influenza Is Latest Sign that the Virus Is an Existential Threat to Wildlife

    NEW YORK , NY | JANUARY 15, 2024

    New York, January 15, 2024 – The Wildlife Conservation Society is issuing the following statement about H5N1 Avian Influenza due to ongoing wildlife die-offs across the world:

    Said Dr. Chris Walzer, WCS Executive Director of Health:

    “With the frightening die-off of animals across the globe due to avian influenza, WCS is calling for governments internationally to treat this growing crisis with the urgency it demands. As we continue to monitor the death of innumerable species and track the movement of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) into mammal populations, we must strengthen the focus on integrating the surveillance of emerging influenza clades in wild birds and mammals to support critical vaccine libraries.

    “H5N1 now presents an existential threat to the world’s biodiversity. It has infected over 150 wild and domestic avian species around the globe as well as a dozens of mammalian species. The bird flu outbreak is the worst globally and also in U.S. history, with hundreds-of-million birds dead since it first turned up in domestic waterfowl in China in 1996. Bird flu is highly transmissible, spread through droplet and feces-borne infections, and exacerbated by climate-change-altering migration schedules for birds and its repeated re-circulation in domestic poultry.

    “Globally, HPAI H5N1 has now infected many mammals—including foxes, pumas, skunks, and both black and brown bears in North America. Some 700 endangered Caspian seals died from HPAI near Dagestan in 2023. Additionally, outbreaks in mink farms in Spain and Finland that serve as potential mixing vessels for reassortment have also been documented. HPAI H5N1 has arrived in Latin America with devastating consequences, afflicting multiple countries that include WCS land- and seascapes in Peru, Chile, Uruguay, Ecuador, and Argentina.

    “More than 95 percent of the Southern elephant seal (Mirounga leonina) pups born along 300 km of the Patagonia coastline died at the end of 2023. It’s the first report of massive elephant seal mortality in the area from any cause in the last half century. The sight of elephant seals found dead or dying along the breeding beaches can only be described as apocalyptic. This 2023 die-off contrasts starkly with the 18,000 pups born and successfully weaned in 2022.

    “As the virus continues to spread through mammal populations, the World Health Organization (WHO) has called on public health officials to prepare for a potential spillover of H5N1 to people. The "R naught" value—or the number of people infected by a single infected person—for COVID initially ranged from 1.5 to 7. For H5N1 among birds, it is around 100. It is imperative that we take a collaborative One Health approach to identifying emerging strains of bird flu across the globe to support the development of specific and universal vaccines that can quickly treat infection in people to prevent another pandemic.

    “The cost of inaction is already causing major devastation to wildlife. As we work to help affected populations recover, we must remain vigilant against the spread of this deadly pathogen to people before it’s too late.”
    "Safety and security don't just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear."
    -Nelson Mandela


    • #47
      Avian Influenza Virus Is Adapting to Spread to Marine Mammals

      Findings Raise Concerns About Wildlife Conservation and Ecosystem Health
      • by Kat Kerlin
      • February 28, 2024

      News Elephant seals lie dead on a beach in Argentina following an outbreak of avian influenza in the region. (Maxi Jonas)

      The highly pathogenic avian influenza virus H5N1 has adapted to spread between birds and marine mammals, posing an immediate threat to wildlife conservation, according to a study from the University of California, Davis, and the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) in Argentina.

      The study, published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, is the first genomic characterization of H5N1 in marine wildlife on the Atlantic shore of South America.

      For the study, scientists collected brain samples from four sea lions, one fur seal and a tern found dead at the most affected sea lion rookery in Argentina. All tested positive for H5N1.

      Genome sequencing revealed that the virus was nearly identical in each of the samples. The samples shared the same mammal adaptation mutations that were previously detected in a few sea lions in Peru and Chile, and in a human case in Chile. Of note, the scientists found all these mutations also in the tern, the first such finding.

      “This confirms that while the virus may have adapted to marine mammals, it still has the ability to infect birds,” saidfirst author Agustina Rimondi, a virologist from INTA. “It is a multi-species outbreak.” Terns are among the hundreds of thousands of birds recently impacted by avian influenza. (Getty) Sea lions nap alongside cormorants in Argentina. (Getty)

      We know this because the virus sequence in the tern retained all mammal-adaptation mutations. Such mutations suggest a potential for transmission between marine mammals.

      “This virus is still relatively low risk for humans,” said senior author Marcela Uhart, a wildlife veterinarian with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine’s One Health Institute and director of its Latin America Program within the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Institute. “As long as the virus continues to replicate in mammals, it may make it a higher concern for humans. That’s why it’s so important to conduct surveillance and provide early warning.”

      The journey of H5N1

      Uhart calls clade — the current variant of H5N1 – “this new monster.” It emerged in 2020, while the human world was reeling from a different pandemic, COVID-19. Avian influenza began killing tens of thousands of sea birds in Europe before moving to South Africa. In 2022, it entered the U.S. and Canada, threatening poultry and wild birds. It migrated to Peru and Chile in late 2022.

      Then, almost exactly a year ago, in February 2023, highly pathogenic avian influenza entered Argentina for the first time. But it was not until August 2023 — when the virus was first found in sea lions at the tip of South America on the Atlantic coastline of Tierra del Fuego — that the virus unleashed its fatal potential in the region. From there, it moved swiftly northward, with deadly results, first for marine mammals and later for seabirds.

      A recent paper Uhart co-authored showed a large outbreak killed 70% of elephant seal pups born in the 2023 breeding season. Mortality rates reached at least 96% by early November 2023 in the surveyed areas of Península Valdés in Argentina. Dead elephant seals line a beach in Argentina in fall 2023. Avian influenza has caused the catastrophic die-off of thousands of elephant seals in Argentina, raising concerns for wildlife and cross-species transmission. (Ralph Vanstreels/UC Davis)

      “When it first came to Argentina, we didn’t know if it would affect elephant seals,” Uhart said. “We never imagined the magnitude of what was to come.”

      Since 2022, H5N1 in South America has killed at least 600,000 wild birds and 50,000 mammals, including elephant seals and sea lions in Argentina, Chile and Peru, and thousands of albatrosses in the Malvinas/Falkland Islands.

      Moving south

      The virus is now heading southward from South America, and scientists are deeply concerned about its potential impact on penguins and other wildlife in Antarctica.

      Uhart and Ralph Vanstreels, her colleague at UC Davis’ Latin America Program in the School of Veterinary Medicine, are conducting wildlife surveillance for H5N1 in Antarctica this month.

      “We need to keep an eye on the ability of this virus to reach species that have never been exposed to an H5N1 infection before,” Rimondi said. “The consequences in those species can be very severe.”

      The concept of One Health honors the interconnectivity among humans, domestic animals, wildlife and the environment. Interspecies disease outbreaks are unsettling examples of such connections and require global collaboration among public, wildlife, agricultural, health and other sectors.

      “We are trying to be at the forefront of documenting, recording and providing early warning,” Uhart said. “We’ve been in this area for 30 years. We know these species. We work with scientists who have 30 years of data on these populations, so we can know what will be important for the future. We have to give voice to these poor creatures. Nobody’s taking note of how big this is.”

      Avian influenza virus H5N1 has adapted to spread between birds and marine mammals, finds a study from UC Davis and partners in Argentina.
      "Safety and security don't just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear."
      -Nelson Mandela


      • #48
        There are so many reports of avian flu in various wild & domestic animals incl. birds, mammals etc. that we can not post all of the incidences.

        It is global spread.

        See our site daily for info & click on Latest Posts.

        Take care of you.


        Very important - USDA: Zoom webinar for "Biosecurity on a Budget" from the Defend the Flock program - March 14, 2024, 2:00 PM + many links to helpful information…


        • #49
          Translation Google

          Avian flu has already affected more than 40 species of mammals and is advancing in Antarctica: what scientists suggest to combat it

          The infection occurred primarily in birds, but outbreaks in livestock were reported in the United States and a second case was reported in humans. What is the risk

          ByValeria Roman
          Apr 12, 2024 11:40 am EST

          Avian flu is a viral infection that mainly affected poultry or wild birds. But since 2020, a new variant of the virus appeared that changed everything. Technically it is called “H5N1 clade.” It has already affected more than 40 species of mammals, and is expanding to more geographic regions of the world, including Antarctica .

          In the United States, outbreaks of bird flu in cattle have been detected in 8 states, and a dairy farm worker in Texas contracted the disease. In humans, the symptoms of bird flu can be mild, similar to those of the common flu, or it can also lead to eye inflammation and severe respiratory symptoms.

          The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC ) reported that he was detected with the H5N1 virus and that he was recovering with mild symptoms. The first human case in that country had been recorded in 2022. It was a Colorado man who had been directly exposed to poultry.

          At a recent meeting, scientists from the US Department of Agriculture stated that the virus does not occur as a respiratory disease in livestock. That means the animals don't seem to excrete large amounts of virus through their nose or mouth.

          “I want to emphasize how unusual this is,” Thijs Kuiken , a professor of comparative pathology and avian flu researcher at Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands , told NPR radio . “In other mammal species with influenza viruses, it is primarily a respiratory illness, which does not appear to be the case in these cattle.”

          Meanwhile, days ago, a group of scientists presented a study that revealed the presence of the H5N1 bird flu virus in at least a small fraction of the birds in New York . People often associate zoonotic diseases with rural environments, farms or natural spaces, said Florian Krammer, an influenza expert at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York who led the study. But New York City has many green spaces and bodies of water that are used by migratory and local birds.

          In dialogue with Infobae , Dr. Sergio Lambertucci , researcher at the Biodiversity and Environment Research Institute (INIBIOMA) of Conicet and the National University of Comahue of Argentina , explained: “The avian flu infection is affecting more mammals as that time passes. The presence of the virus in cattle in the United States is worrying because they are animals that are more in contact with people.”

          Currently, the avian flu situation is considered to be a “ panzootic ” because it is a serious infectious disease that spreads across large areas of the world and affects one or several species of animals in many countries.

          “Panzootia has not yet conquered the entire planet, but it is going in that direction. “It did reach Antarctica, affecting several species already,” he noted.

          Lambertucci together with Pablo Plaza , from INIBIOMA, Víctor Gamarra-Toledo, from the National University of San Agustín, in Arequipa , Peru , and Juan Rodríguez Euguí, from the Ministry of Health of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, published an article on the recent changes in mammalian infection patterns with avian influenza virus worldwide. The research was published in the March issue of the US CDC journal .

          Why is the bird flu virus advancing?

          “The current panzootic is ongoing, and the number of species that become naturally infected is increasing,” they wrote. 40 new species of mammals infected by this pathogen have been reported during the current panzootic - the scientists clarified in the work published in the CDC's journal Emerging Infectious Diseases - “so the effect on mammalian species may continue to worsen over time.” time".

          The virus is reaching more areas and species of mammals that live in these places, that is, there is a high environmental circulation of this pathogen. “However, the dynamics of the virus may also be changing, in which case it is likely increasing its infectivity in rare species such as mammals,” they noted.

          Exactly how mammals acquire bird flu infection is still unknown. According to the researchers, most of the scientific information available during the previous and current H5N1 event suggests that the most plausible source of infection is close contact with infected birds, including ingestion, which can occur through animal predation. sick individuals or the scavenging of corpses.

          For example, in 2004, a total of 147 tigers and 2 leopards housed in zoos in Thailand became infected and died after consuming infected chicken carcasses. In China, this source of infection was also associated with the death of a tiger in 2013 and a lion in 2016.

          “In the current panzootic, the first case of H5N1 infection in mink in Spain probably occurred through contact with infected birds (perhaps seagulls). Ingestion of infected bird carcasses was likely the route of infection for red foxes in the Netherlands, Finland, and Japan during 2020-2022, American sea lions in Peru in 2023, various mesocarnivores in Canada during 2021-2022, and otters ( Lutra lutra ) and a lynx ( Lynx lynx ) in Finland in 2021-2022.

          But they also warned of a risk . “Studies in infected tigers, farmed minks and social species such as fur seals are worrying, raising the alarm that mammal-to-mammal transmission may have occurred .” They acknowledged that “more research is needed to confirm this possibility.”

          In South America, avian flu arrived in 2022 and caused massive mortalities in sea lions and elephant seals in Peru, Chile and Argentina. “Now there is a period of relative calm. But we must maintain vigilance,” Dr. Plaza told Infobae .

          In Antarctica, as an international expedition warned days ago, avian flu is harming wildlife. Aboard a sailboat, researchers scoured the Weddell Sea and the Antarctic Peninsula for a month, and found carcasses of migratory seabirds similar to seagulls, called Antarctic skuas, with flu in four of the 10 areas analyzed.

          They found 50 dead skuas. On Heroína Island, where there is a large colony of Adelie penguins, “a massive mortality of these animals was observed with more than 500 corpses in the investigated place, which suggests that an abnormal mortality event may have occurred in the that several thousand penguins would have perished,” they reported.

          What solutions are proposed against the advance of avian flu?

          In the work published in the CDC journal , Dr. Lambertucci and his colleagues recommend against the large avian flu panzootic:
          • Each country should conduct ongoing surveillance to identify any increased risk to biodiversity and human health.
          • It is essential that all affected countries share all information available to them (e.g. genomic data of the H5N1 virus, species and number of individual animals affected)
          • International collaboration must be intensified to obtain rapid results
          • It should be noted that some less developed regions have technological and logistical barriers that make it difficult to produce and analyze information on the impact of this virus, and may need assistance.
          “Strong collaboration between countries and institutions is necessary to prepare for any spread that could lead to a panzootic or human pandemic in mammals,” they stated.

          In a statement, the World Health Organization (WHO) commented on the reported case of a man in Texas with bird flu. “As the virus has not acquired mutations that facilitate transmission between humans and based on the available information, the WHO assesses the public health risk that this virus represents for the general population as low and for occupationally exposed people, the risk of infection is considered low to moderate,” he said on Wednesday, April 10.


          See also:

          Hattip to Tetano:

          Emerg Infect Dis . Recent Changes in Patterns of Mammal Infection with Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza A(H5N1) Virus Worldwide

          "Safety and security don't just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear."
          -Nelson Mandela