Uruguay confirms first sea lion case of bird flu

Montevideo (AFP) — Uruguayan authorities have confirmed the first case of bird flu in a sea lion and are urging people not to approach the animals, live or dead, as they point to other suspected cases on the country’s coast.

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The Uruguayan Ministry of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries (MGAP) reported in a statement the first case of H5 avian influenza in Uruguay’s wild mammals on Tuesday 5 September: a dead sea lion was found on Cerro beach in Montevideo.

He noted that the animal first appeared on Thursday, August 31, with similar symptoms, and was contained on September 2, the same day that all appropriate swab tests were performed.

“We are waiting for the sequencing to see if it was animals that ingested the birds that carried the virus, or if it was a transmission between species,” Fernando Mattos, head of MGAP, told Channel 10 news program underline.

“Hopefully this is a case that was dragged down by the current situation. We know that the virus is spreading in Argentina,” he added.

In neighboring Argentina, an outbreak of bird flu on the Atlantic coast has claimed the lives of a hundred sea lions, official sources reported last week.

Matos said there are currently no active cases of the disease in Uruguayan poultry.

Uruguayan authorities on 16 August suspended for 60 days the health emergency decree for avian influenza issued on 15 February following the detection of a case of a black-necked swan in the Garzon Lake region in the east of the country.

MGAP said the decision was taken 80 days after the last outbreak, but clarified that it would maintain effective precautionary measures across the country.

According to the World Health Organization, bird flu has caused “unprecedented” deaths in wild and domestic birds since 2020 in many countries in Africa, Asia and Europe. The virus spread to North America in 2021, and then to Central and South America in 2022.

After confirming the first case of a marine mammal, MGAP asked people not to allow pets near or through fenced areas to avoid contagion and spread of disease.

Human infections with bird flu are very rare, but when they do occur, they can cause severe illness and a high mortality rate.

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