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H5N1 Bird Flu

Why is it in the news?

  • Tens of thousands of seals and sea lions in different parts of the world have recently died due to the bird flu.

 More about the news

  • Since 2020, the highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu virus has spread globally, infecting birds in over 80 countries and leading to the culling of millions of chickens and turkeys at commercial poultry farms.
  • The virus, which primarily infects and spreads among poultry and wild birds, has evolved into a highly pathogenic form, causing large waves of illness and death among birds.
  • The most concerning aspect is the virus’s spread among mammals, including tens of thousands of seals and sea lions, as well as outbreaks among foxes, pumas, skunks, bears, and farmed minks in various regions.
  • Marine mammals, particularly sea lions, have been severely affected, with over 20,000 sea lions reported dead in Chile and Peru, and reports of seal deaths on the east and west coasts of the US.
  • The virus’s impact extends to endangered species such as the California condor, where at least 21 individuals died in 2023 alone.
  • Climate change may be a contributing factor to the large-scale spread of the virus, as soaring global temperatures alter bird behaviour, forcing them into new territories and interactions that facilitate the virus’s transmission.
  • Additionally, warmer sea temperatures may weaken marine mammals, making them more susceptible to disease.

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