A widespread outbreak of bird flu on Argentina’s Atlantic coast has claimed the lives of a hundred sea lions, official sources reported Tuesday.
“More than 50 dead samples have been counted in coastal areas, and there are many others with symptoms consistent with bird flu,” the environment minister of Rio Negro province (Southern Patagonia) said in a statement.
Dozens of sea lion carcasses have also been found on the coast of Necochea, south of Buenos Aires, and in Santa Cruz, almost at the southern tip of the continent, according to the National Animal Health Service (Senasa).
“The death toll is rising. There is no veterinary treatment for these cases,” an authorized source in Rio Negro province told AFP.
Senasa said the cause of death was a “new case of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI)”.
Authorities are asking people not to approach beaches where cases have been reported or touch anything that may be contaminated.
Twenty-five sea lions were reported dead in Mar del Plata, 400 kilometers south of the capital, the largest center of summer sea tourism and an important port center related to deep-sea fishing.
Sea lions are the symbol of Mar del Plata and it is a tradition to visit the port and watch them from the pier.
Argentina’s coastline stretches nearly 5,000 kilometers between the mouth of the Rio de la Plata and Tierra del Fuego (the southernmost point).
Environmental experts and Senasa are collecting samples of a wolf (Otaria flavescens) and dead birds.
The first reports said the birds were infecting marine fauna.
Also known as the sea lion because of the mane around its neck, the South American specimen is a pinniped mammal that also includes walruses, seals, and walruses.
Adult males weigh about 300 kg.
Because they are at risk of extinction, they inhabit habitats and protected areas, the largest of which is Punta Bermeja, near Viedma in the Río Negro, with Approximately 5,000 specimens.
“Avian influenza is a potentially zoonotic disease, meaning it can be transmitted from animals to humans,” Secretary Rio Negro said.
Not taking pets to the beach is part of the health advice, the statement said.