A polar bear found dead near Utqiagvik in northern Alaska is the first known case of a polar bear being infected with the avian influenza virus that is spreading among animal populations around the world.
The Alaska Department of Environmental Health confirmed that tissue samples collected from polar bears ( sea bear ) showed the presence of the EA H5N1 avian influenza strain in September.
“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, an endangered species, typically eat 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.
by another mammal
Alastair Ward, professor of biodiversity and ecosystem management at the University of Leeds, noted in an article published in The Conversation that carnivores and scavengers are the main ones affected.
“The likelihood that seals or polar bears encountered and consumed at least one infected bird carcass in an Arctic colony experiencing an outbreak appears to be quite high,” he said.
Ward also suggested analyzing the virus and comparing it to other infected species in the area to determine whether the bear had eaten a dead seabird or seal that carried the virus.
According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), avian influenza is an infectious disease that primarily affects birds and is caused by a household virus 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.
“Given the highly adaptable nature of influenza viruses, continued surveillance of H5N1 strains remains critical. This will prepare us in the event of the emergence of new variants adapted to mammalian hosts, potentially including humans,” said Pabellón .
The most common way the virus is introduced into an area is through migrating wild birds, and according to the Pan American Health Organization, the globalization of travel and trade and the simplified exchange of people and products between countries allow the virus to spread quickly. Infectious diseases from initial focus.
As a result, Ward warns: “The impact of H5N1 on some seabird populations is devastating. “If we do not respond appropriately to mammalian-adapted H5N1 viruses, the consequences for polar bears and us could be severe. “
JU (efe, conversation)