Migratory birds that interact with infected poultry in North and South America blamed as scientists worry virus reaching Antarctica more often than thought
Australian Associated Press
Tuesday 20 September 2016 06.32 BST
The discovery of a new strain of bird flu in Antarctic penguins has raised concerns the virus is reaching the frozen continent more often than previously thought, flown in by migratory birds.
Australian researchers helped uncover the new strain of avian influenza in the chinstrap penguin in 2015, finding striking similarities to a North American strain, which meant it had been introduced to Antarctica only recently.
The virus was first detected in Antarctica in 2013, but the discovery of the new strain has raised a red flag to the vulnerability of penguins to avian flu and its capacity to reach Antarctica.
Associate professor Aeron Hurt, of the Melbourne-based Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, said scientists had previously thought viruses rarely reached Antarctica.
“What the most recent finding shows is that viruses do get down there more often than we thought and it’s a red flag towards the future,” Hurt said on Tuesday.
“Our concern with that is that there have been viruses over the last couple of years that have been quite deadly to certain types of birds.”