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Montevideo, May 24th 2024 - 19:40 UTC



Avian Flu in South Georgia Gentoo and King penguin colonies

Wednesday, March 13th 2024 - 06:52 UTC
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A colony of King penguins in South Georgia A colony of King penguins in South Georgia

The government of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands has reported that Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) has now been confirmed from 23 sites across South Georgia, including a colony of Gentoo and a colony of King penguins.

It must be recalled that HPAI was first detected in the brown skua population on Bird Island, South Georgia in October 2023. 

Since then, British Antarctic Survey (BAS) scientists and Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI) personnel have undertaken monitoring across the Territory. The teams have been closely supported by the UK Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) via testing at their laboratories in Weybridge.

Species which have historically tested positive for HPAI H5N1 include: brown skua, kelp gul, wandering albatross, elephant seal and Antarctic fur seal. 

The most recent results from samples taken in early February have confirmed the presence of the disease in one colony of gentoo penguins and one colony of king penguins on South Georgia. 

Whilst the virus has been detected at a range of sites and in several species, the effects appear to be localized. GSGSSI will continue to work with partner agencies to monitor the impact of the disease on wildlife in the Territories.

Genomic sequencing surveillance data analyzed to-date has confirmed previous assessments that there is no increased risk to human health. The risk of human infection with H5N1 remains very low.

Guidance for those visiting the Territory is available in the Biosecurity Handbook.

As part of the response to HPAI, some sites on South Georgia are closed to visitors. At other sites, visitors are asked to continue following established biosecurity procedures to decontaminate clothing, footwear and field equipment before and after any landing between regions and sites.

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