Unprecedented HPAI virus hits southern Brazil, affecting over 900 seals and sea lions

by Shura Guseva

In an alarming development in southern Brazil, the bird flu outbreak has taken a grave toll on marine life, with reports confirming the death of nearly 1,000 seals and sea lions. This unprecedented event, occurring in the southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul, marks the first time the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has been detected in South America, specifically affecting marine mammals. Authorities and researchers are working diligently to contain the spread of this deadly virus.

Unprecedented HPAI virus hits southern Brazil, affecting over 900 seals and sea lions

Silvina Botta, an oceanographer at Rio Grande Federal University (FURG), emphasized the urgency in disposing of the carcasses either through burial or incineration. This immediate action is crucial to minimize the risk of transmission to humans or other animals. The situation is dire, as some sea mammals have been observed convulsing on local beaches, a distressing sign indicating the virus’s impact on their nervous systems. In accordance with government health regulations, these animals are being euthanized to prevent a prolonged and painful demise.

The emergence of HPAI in marine mammals raises serious concerns about its potential impact on commercial poultry flocks, a sector critical to the region’s economy. Authorities are taking swift measures to isolate the virus and prevent it from infecting poultry farms, which could have devastating economic and health consequences. This outbreak underscores the interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health and the need for vigilant monitoring and rapid response to emerging infectious diseases.

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