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An Alaskan polar bear is the first of its kind to die from bird flu – as the highly pathogenic avian influenza continues to spread around the world.

The polar bear – which is listed as 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 the bear died from the avian influenza –  the world’s first recorded fatal case for the species.

Dr. Bob Gerlach, Alaska’s state veterinarian, told the Alaska Beacon this case was reported to the World Organization for Animal Health.

‘This is the first polar bear case reported, for anywhere,’ Gerlach said.

Alaska polar bear dies of bird flu in world’s first fatal case for the species – as highly-infectious pathogen rips across North America

The Alaska state veterinarian confirmed a polar bear has died from the avian influenza – the world’s first fatal case for the species (stock image)

The polar bear - which is listed as threatened on the endangered species list - was found dead in October near Utqiagvik, Alaska (pictured), the northernmost community in the U.S

The polar bear – which is listed as threatened on the endangered species list – was found dead in October near Utqiagvik, Alaska (pictured), the northernmost community in the U.S

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

Gerlach noted that because of the environment and the nature of the disease, the polar bear did not have to directly eat an infected bird to become sick.

‘If a bird dies of this, especially if it’s kept in a cold environment, the virus can be maintained for a while in the environment,’ he said.

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

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

While it currently remains a low threat to human health, reported the CDC, it is ripping through flocks of wild birds and poultry around the world. 

The highly pathogenic avian influenza causes severe disease and high mortality in infected birds.

In September, the United States Department of Agriculture placed restrictions on imports of poultry from France, Iceland, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Norway due to the increased risk of introducing the bird flu to the United States.

The USDA, which considers the start of this latest outbreak February 8, 2022, has detected the bird flu in a total of 1,059 poultry flocks in 47 states

The USDA, which considers the start of this latest outbreak February 8, 2022, has detected the bird flu in a total of 1,059 poultry flocks in 47 states

Last winter, the avian flu lead to rising prices for eggs and there are fears 'eggflation' could return

Last winter, the avian flu lead to rising prices for eggs and there are fears ‘eggflation’ could return

The USDA, which considers the start of this latest outbreak February 8, 2022, has detected the bird flu in a total of 1,059 poultry flocks in 47 states – 451 flocks have been commercial and 608 flocks have been backyard – as of January 1, 2024.

In their latest data of wild birds, published on December 26, the total detection since January 1, 2022 in wild birds is 8,547. 

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

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

Since then prices have been steadily falling but it seems that ‘eggflation’ has returned to the US, according to Datasembly analysis for DailyMail.com, when egg prices went up 11.4 percent during November.



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