Scientists record first case of polar bear infected with avian influenza

In the northern Alaska community of Utqiagvik, scientists have discovered the carcass of a polar bear infected with the avian influenza virus that is spreading through animal populations around the world and are investigating its possible consequences for human health. as a result of.


The Alaska Department of Environmental Health confirmed that tissue samples collected from polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in September showed the presence of the EA H5N1 avian influenza strain.

“This is the first documented case of avian influenza in a polar bear on Earth,” state veterinarian Bob Gerlach told The Alaska Beacon.

Gerlach added that polar bears are an endangered species that typically feed on seals caught at sea, but this bear likely swallowed the remains of a dead bird.


“If a bird succumbs to the disease, especially if the remains were kept in a cold environment, the virus may persist in that environment for some time,” the official added.

According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), avian influenza is an infectious disease that primarily affects birds and is caused by viruses in the family Orthomyxoviridae.

The virus has affected a variety of mammals, including foxes, otters, minks, sea lions and seals. Some strains of highly pathogenic avian influenza have the ability to infect humans and pose a threat to public health.

He said: “Given the highly adaptable nature of influenza viruses, continued surveillance of H5N1 strains remains critical. This will prepare us in the event that new variants emerge that are adapted to mammalian hosts, potentially including humans. ” Ecosystem Management, University of Leeds.

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