Bird flu kills more than 2,000 sea lions, penguins in Chile

Santiago, Mar 31 (EFE).- Chilean authorities have documented the deaths of 1,535 sea lions and 730 Humboldt penguins due to avian flu, the government said Friday.

“Never before have the events that are happening now occurred in Chile,” the head of the National Fish and Aquaculture Service (Sernapesca) said.

Soledad Tapia said that the biggest impact of the outbreak has been on pelicans and other birds.

Most of the mammalian fatalities are in the northern regions of Arica, Parinacota, Antofagasta, Tarapaca, and Atacama, where 709 sea lions and 343 Humboldt penguins have died.

Sea mammals have also been found dead in the Biobio region, 500 km (300 mi) south of Santiago.

Members of the public who encounter a bird or animal that is dead or in distress should “not handle or approach it,” but instead alert authorities, Tapia said.

The body of the first sea lion to succumb to avian flu was found in the north on Feb. 15, two months after the virus was detected in the Chile.

Officials in neighboring Peru said at the start of this month that avian flu had killed 3,492 sea lions – more than 3 percent of the country’s population of the species – and 63,000 birds.

Humans can contract avian flu through contact with infected birds or animals.

On Wednesday, the Health Ministry announced Chile’s first confirmed case of avian flu in a person, identifying the patient only as a 53-year-old man. EFE


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