Polar bears and sea lions catch bird flu

Scientists have long expressed concern about the spread of bird flu non-avian species, and worry that it will eventually spread to humans. Although a few humans have died from bird flu, the virus has not so far become transmissible between humans.

The Guardian reported that a polar bear died in Alaska, possibly after eating an infected wild bird. The newspaper said millions of birds and thousands of mammals had died from infection with the virulent H5N1 variant of the virus.

Britain’s Natural History Museum reported earlier this year that bird flu had killed more than 3 500 South American sea lions in Peru. The article went on to explain why transmission among and between mammals was limited and that the mammals that were infected had probably interacted with birds.

Bird flu ha also killed seals and sea lions in Brazil.

The SA Poultry Association (SAPA) has noted from United States bird flu reports that, in addition to birds, the virus has killed a variety of other species in the US since 2022. These include foxes, black and brown bears, grey and harbour seals, bottle nosed dolphins, skunk, river otters, coyote, leopards, pumas and domestic cats.