PRO/AH/EDR> Avian influenza (131): Europe (UK), Asia (Russia) mass die-offs, HPAI susp.


A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases

In this post:
[1] Russia
[2] UK: Scotland

[1] Russia
Date: Wed 16 Aug 2023
Source: Today Headline [edited]

More than 300 northern fur seals and Steller sea lions have been found
dead in a mystery mass die-off on a small, uninhabited island in

Tyuleniy Island [Sakhalin Oblast/Region], also known as the “Island of
the Seals,” is located in the Sea of Okhotsk and is an important
breeding ground for northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus).

Photos taken by conservationists from the Friends of the Ocean
wildlife relief group and the environmental education organization
Club Boomerang show carcasses strewn across the coast. Most of the
dead animals were seals. Dead birds were also found.

In a translated Telegram post
[], a local subsidiary of
the state-run broadcaster GTRK said that the cause of the die-off was
unclear, with poisons, toxins, and viral infections all

Maria Chistaeva, the chief veterinarian of the Primorsky Aquarium, who
was on the island at the time, told GTRK that avian flu “cannot be
ruled out”
[] as a possible culprit.

“For me, it is necessary to urgently find out the cause of mass death,
take tests and study, tests for both toxins and viral infection,” she

A subsequent Telegram post
[] from GTRK Sakhalin said
specialists from the Federal Supervisory Natural Resources Management
Service had gone on an emergency visit to the island. The team
collected biological samples that were sent for analysis. Results are
expected to take a month, it said.

Authorities have established quarantine zones for avian flu in several
coastal regions on the nearby Sakhalin Island, which sits 10 miles (17
kilometers) from Tyuleniy Island.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), widely known as bird flu,
has wreaked havoc on sea bird populations across the world since a
particularly virulent strain, known as H5N1, was detected in a gull in

Since earlier this year [2023], scientists have been investigating
whether the strain has made its way into marine mammal populations.
Scientists suspect bird-to-seal transmissions of avian flu may have
occurred in regions such as Maine and coastal Peru, where H5N1 has
devastated wild bird populations. From January through February this
year [2023], more than 3000 sea lion deaths were recorded in Peru,
many of which tested positive for H5N1.

The expedition group to Tyuleniy, which included scientists,
veterinarians, and volunteers, had traveled to the island to clean up
plastic pollution and rescue seals that were trapped by plastic nets
or other debris.

Before the mass death was discovered, the group said it had saved 151
northern fur seals. Northern fur seals are listed as “vulnerable” by
the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to their
falling pup production rates.

In the past, northern fur seals were hunted as part of a global
commercial fur trade and are currently threatened by competition with
fisheries, as well as climate change effects.

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