Officials from Argentina’s National Service of Agrifood Health and Quality (SENASA) were seen removing dozens of sea lions from a breakwater in the beach resort of Mar del Plata on Sunday after an outbreak of avian influenza among the area’s sea lion population.
“Last Tuesday, the first samples of sea lions with obvious symptoms of avian influence, better known as Avian flu were discovered, » said SENASA Director, Victor Manuel Baldovino Prina.
“Argentina has already implemented protocols that are observed worldwide for all treatment of sea lions in case of death, as well as burials with all sanitary measures, » he continued.
The sea lions of Mar del Plata are believed to be infected with highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5, at least 40 animals have been found dead after contracting the virus at the time of publication.
Coast Guard and port authorities have closed the south breakwater to pedestrian traffic in a bid to stem the spread of the virus and prevent pets from being infected.
« We closed what is for us the southern breakwater because it was a place where the sea lions were very close to those who were going to watch them, so we closed it as a matter of precaution, » said Gabriel Felizia, President of the Mar del Plata regional port consortium.
Experts from SENASA believe that sea lions are contracting the disease from wild birds and spreading it via faecal matter. Similar outbreaks have been reported along Buenos Aires province’s Atlantic coast and in the Patagonia region.
Although avian flu is not transmissible from animals to humans, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned of an ‘alarming rise’ of outbreaks among mammals, suggesting the highly infectious H5N1 virus could mutate and infect people.