Catamarca: An avian influenza outbreak, commonly known as bird flu, has claimed the lives of approximately 220 flamingos in Argentina's Catamarca province, CNN reported.
The H5N1 strain, prevalent in more than 80 countries since 2022, has raised concerns globally. While the virus primarily spreads through wild aquatic birds, it poses a potential threat to domestic poultry and other bird species.
In Argentina, the James' flamingo, or puna flamingo, a gregarious species, faces the risk of transmitting the disease during migration.
The H5N1 strain, detected in the flamingos near Laguna Grande and Laguna Diamante, underscores the challenges of monitoring and controlling the virus's impact on wildlife populations, according to CNN.
The risk to humans remains relatively low, with 11 reported cases since December 2021. However, experts are closely watching the virus's spread to other mammals, evident when over 50 sea lions succumbed to infection in Argentina.
The Argentine government advises caution, recommending people avoid contact with sick or deceased birds. Zoos in the United States, witnessing an uptick in infections, have moved captive birds indoors to mitigate the risk. The virus spreads through saliva, mucus, and faeces from infected birds, posing potential threats to scavenging species. While human cases remain limited, the virus's wide distribution and mutation potential pose significant risks.
Krysten Schuler, an expert at Cornell University, emphasised reporting unusual animal deaths to state wildlife agencies promptly.
"As far as people interacting with wild birds, there doesn't seem to be a huge risk to them, because the number of human cases have remained low globally, so we're not too worried about that," said Schuler, adding, "But the mutation potential and the wide distribution of this virus are the major risk factors."
The "near-threatened" James' flamingo faces additional challenges from habitat loss due to mining and human disturbances.
The potential impact on struggling bird populations raises concerns about the survival of the species. Despite limited options to halt the virus's spread, early reporting remains crucial for effective intervention.
As the H5N1 strain continues to affect bird populations globally, its complex dynamics underscore the need for vigilance in wildlife monitoring and conservation efforts. The ongoing challenges in understanding the virus's full impact highlight the importance of early detection and coordinated responses to safeguard both animal and human health, CNN reported.