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Health

Alaskan polar bear dies of bird flu, first fatal case for species

  • A polar bear was found dead in October near Utqiagvik, Alaska, the northernmost community in the United States.
  • On December 6, the Alaska State Veterinarian confirmed that the bear had died of avian flu – the first fatal case for this species in the world.



An Alaskan polar bear is the first of its species to die from bird flu, as highly pathogenic bird flu continues to spread around the world.

The polar bear, considered threatened on the endangered species list, was found dead in October near Utqiagvik, Alaska, the northernmost community in the United States.

On December 6, the Alaska State Veterinarian confirmed that the bear had died of avian flu – the first fatal case recorded for this species in the world.

Dr. Bob Gerlach, Alaska State Veterinarian, told the Alaska Beacon that this case was reported to the World Organization for Animal Health.

“This is the first reported case of a polar bear anywhere,” Gerlach said.

The Alaska state veterinarian has confirmed that a polar bear has died of bird flu – the world’s first fatal case for this species (stock image)
The polar bear – which is on the endangered species list – was found dead in October near Utqiagvik, Alaska (pictured), the northernmost community in the United States.

He said polar bears normally eat seals, but it’s likely this bear caught the virus by eating a dead bird.

Gerlach noted that due to the environment and the nature of the disease, the polar bear did not need to directly eat an infected bird to become ill.

“If a bird dies from it, especially if it is kept in a cold environment, the virus can remain in the environment for some time,” he said.

The latest avian flu outbreak reached North America in December 2021, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, according to the United States Geological Survey.

Subsequently, HPAI viruses EA H5 and EA H5N1 were confirmed in wild birds, backyard flocks, commercial poultry facilities, and wild mammals in Canada and the United States.

Although it currently remains a low threat to human health, the CDC reported, it is ravaging flocks of wild birds and poultry across the world.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza causes severe illness and high mortality in infected birds.

In September, the United States Department of Agriculture imposed restrictions on poultry imports from France, Iceland, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Norway due to the increased risk of introducing influenza avian in the United States.

The USDA, which estimates the start of this latest outbreak on February 8, 2022, has detected avian flu in a total of 1,059 poultry flocks in 47 states.
Last winter, bird flu caused egg prices to rise and there are fears of a return of “eggflation”

The USDA, which estimates the start of this latest outbreak on February 8, 2022, detected avian flu in a total of 1,059 poultry flocks in 47 states – 451 flocks were commercial and 608 backyard flocks – as of January 1 2024. .

In their latest wild bird data, released on December 26, the total number of detections since January 1, 2022 in wild birds is 8,547.

The USDA reported several more detections of highly pathogenic avian influenza in mammals between 2022 and 2023, including seals, skunks, mountain lions, red foxes, raccoons and even a bottlenose dolphin.

Last winter, the double whammy of the worst bird flu outbreak in years and farmers facing inflated feed and fuel costs saw prices of a dozen rise above $5 for the first time.

Since then, prices have continued to fall, but it appears that “egg deflation” has returned to the United States, according to Datasembly analysis for DailyMail.com, when egg prices increased by 11.4 % in November.

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