Confirm that bird flu has killed at least one polar bear

2024/01/08 Galarraga Aiestaran, Ana - Elhuyar Zientzia Iturria: Elhuyar aldizkaria

The polar bear is a symbol of threatened species. Ed. Public domain

The latest avian influenza epidemic was identified in 2021 and since then millions of wild birds and thousands of mammals have been killed by this global variant of the H5N1 virus. In December 2023, the Canadian environmental conservation department said the virus also caused the death of a polar bear.

The bear was found near Utqiagvik, in one of the northernmost communities, two years after the identification of this virus variant in North America. The bear is thought to be infected by eating dead bird carcasses, and what could be more, though they were not found.

The news is of particular concern because polar bears are threatened species, especially the consequences of global warming. But the other polar species are also very vulnerable, as influenza viruses have not usually reached those territories, so they have no protection. Thus, scientists warn about the gravity of the situation.


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