Walrus Dies Of Bird Flu In First Recorded Case

The walrus is one of many wild animals to fall victim to the virus


(updated )

2 Minutes Read

A walrus on ice Bird flu has killed a walrus in the Arctic - Media Credit: Adobe Stock

A walrus who was found dead on a Norwegian Arctic island last year has been confirmed to have been killed by bird flu.

Christian Lydersen, of the Norwegian Polar Institute, told the Guardian that a German laboratory carried out tests, which showed the walrus was infected. The tests could not determine whether the flu strain was H5N8 or the dominant H5N1 strain.

Read more: Bird Flu Infects Dairy Cows And Farm Worker In The US

Lydersen said that some of six other walruses who died last year in the Svalbard islands may also have had bird flu. Marine mammals including a polar bear, sea lions, and seals have already died from the virus. The most likely route of infection is through the animals feeding on infected birds.

An animal pandemic

Workers pour hens at an egg farm into a chute to be killed
Lukas Vincour / Zví?ata Nejíme / We Animals Media Half a billion farmed birds have been killed in cruel ways to stop the spread of bird flu

More than half a billion farmed birds have been slaughtered since the start of outbreaks of the “highly pathogenic” H5 strains in efforts to contain the virus. But it has still spread through wild animal populations, killing millions of birds, particularly seabirds. At least 26 species of mammals have also caught the virus.

Read more: Woman In China Becomes First Human To Die From H3N8 Bird Flu

No region appears to be safe from its spread. Not only has it reached the Arctic, but penguins in the Antarctic were also found to be infected last year.

Farming birds for meat and eggs is the main culprit of this situation, according to experts. Thijs Kuiken, a comparative pathologist at Erasmus University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, told the BBC that “High pathogenic avian influenza is typically a poultry disease, which doesn’t occur in the wild. What’s unusual now, is this particular type has spilled into wild birds and this has allowed it to spread worldwide.”

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