Rio Grande do Sul, December 11: In an alarming development, authorities in the southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, reported that nearly 1,000 seals and sea lions have succumbed to bird flu outbreaks. The highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has devastated local sea mammal populations, with 942 confirmed deaths, marking the first appearance of the virus in the South American country. Oceanographer Silvina Botta, affiliated with the Rio Grande Federal University (FURG), emphasises the urgency of containing the virus's spread.

According to the Reuters report, the carcasses of the affected sea mammals must be promptly buried or incinerated to mitigate the risk of contaminating humans or other animals. Disturbingly, some sea mammals have been observed convulsing on local beaches, indicating the virus's impact on their nervous systems. Under government health regulations, affected animals must be euthanised to prevent prolonged suffering. Since Brazil's initial report of HPAI in wild birds in May, the Ministry of Agriculture has implemented preventive measures to avoid outbreaks on commercial poultry farms, crucial for preventing potential export bans. Bird Flu Outbreak: Lion Dies of Avian Influenza H5N1 at Zoo in Central Peru, Says Health Ministry.

However, the virus has taken a toll on other animal populations, including seabirds, seals, and sea lions. Authorities are also investigating the deaths of porpoises and penguins found on beaches, awaiting confirmed results. Oceanographer Botta notes that the contagion among sea mammals likely originated in Peru, circling the South American continent and affecting wildlife in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and now Brazil. The first diagnosis of HPAI-related sea mammal deaths in Rio Grande do Sul occurred in September, with active outbreaks still present in three towns. Bird Flu Outbreak in Peru: Avian Influenza H5N1 Kills More Than 700 Sea Lions in Protected Areas.

The Agriculture Ministry has reported 148 HPAI outbreaks in Brazil, primarily along the coast, prompting a health emergency declaration. Despite efforts to contain the disease, the ministry asserts that HPAI is not yet considered endemic in Brazil. As per the report, the global implications of the virus continue to pose challenges, with avian influenza having previously led to the culling of hundreds of millions of farm animals in Europe and the United States.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Dec 11, 2023 07:49 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website