More than 3,300 sea lions in Chile have died of the H5N1 bird flu virus. That represents a six-fold increase in just 4 weeks, according to government estimates released on Wednesday.
The outbreak is also affecting other marine animals, including dolphins, porpoises, sea otters, and penguins. As the virus continues to mutate and get better at infecting mammals, the ruling classes continue to warn of the potential for a future human pathogen.
Chile has also seen a case of bird flu in humans.
Sea lions have been hit unusually hard by the H5N1 strain in South America. Around 3,500 sea lions in Peru, which is next to Chile, were reported to have died of avian influenza as of early March, raising the possibility of mammal-to-mammal transmission, according to a report by BNO News.
It hasn’t only been sea lions either. Other marine species in Chile have also been hit by bird flu, most notably Humboldt penguins. So far, 933 have been found dead this year and that statistic represents an estimated 8.5% of all Humboldt penguins in Chile.
“A total population of no more than 11,000 Humboldt penguins is estimated in our country, which is not a lot because this species has a highly localized distribution,” said María Soledad Tapia Almonacid, the head of the aquaculture service. “In this contingency, we are close to losing 10% of this species and that certainly worries us.”
Two Chilean dolphins have also now tested positive for H5N1 bird flu, making it the first time that dolphins have been affected by the virus in the South American country. At least 9 other dolphins were also found dead but have not been tested. Sixteen marine otters and 15 porpoises, a marine mammal closely related to narwhal and beluga whales were also believed to have died of the bird flu. Most of the deaths have been reported in the northern region.
“The global H5N1 situation is worrying given the wide spread of the virus in birds around the world and the increasing reports of cases in mammals, including in humans,” Dr. Sylvie Briand, a WHO official, said on February 24th. “WHO takes the risk from this virus seriously and urges heightened vigilance from all countries.”
The masters have continued to craft a bird flu narrative.