Bird flu kills sea lions in Peru
Bird flu kills sea lions in Peru

Reuters reported that bird flu has killed tens of thousands of birds, mostly pelicans, and at least 716 sea lions in protected areas across Peru, as the H5N1 strain spreads throughout the region.

Peru recorded its first instance of the virus in birds in the country's north in November. According to local government data, it has killed 63,000 birds since then.

"We have also recorded since mid-January the unusual death of many sea lions, so far we have about 716 dead sea lions in seven protected natural areas of the coast," said Roberto Gutierrez, head of surveillance of the National Service of Natural Protected Areas.

Bird flu kills sea lions in Peru

In recent weeks, crews from Peru's National Forestry and Wildlife Service, in protective plastic suits, gloves and masks, have collected and buried hundreds of sea lions from several beaches along Peru's central coast.

AFP reported that the transmission of the bird flu virus from birds to mammals is rare, but recently cases of infection in foxes, otters, cats and grizzly bears have occurred in the United Kingdom, France and the United States.

Peru's health ministry says local bird flu comes from migratory birds flying in from North America. Peru's National Forestry and Wildlife Service has warned people not to touch sea lions and seabirds on the coast and to prevent their pets from touching them.

The mobility of wildlife can accelerate the spread of disease, with migratory birds traveling between their wintering and breeding grounds between spring and fall each year. Because of this cross-border migratory behavior, the various pathogens they may carry are transmitted to the outside, and this migratory behavior is one of the most dangerous ways of spreading disease, Lei Fumin said, a researcher from the Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

(All images via CFP)

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