[Tweeters] Avian Influenza

Ellen Cohen cohenellenr at yahoo.com
Wed Jun 22 19:47:04 PDT 2022

This was posted in nysbirds (similar to tweeters) & thought it might be of interest to tweeters:
Regarding **possible causes** of mortalities of dead (or dying) seabirds, particularly shearwaters of at least several species seen just lately on the Atlantic shores of (at least) New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and possibly northward, which at-least anecdotally are now likely into the many-hundreds for these states, in just recent weeks (if not recent days alone) -

There is what has been termed (by the Government of Great Britain, and the by Government of Scotland) *HPAI* (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza) affecting in particular there, the northern coastal area of Scotland, and also other areas of the U.K.  **This note is to do with wild birds.**  Some estimates are that the world’s largest breeding-population (or ‘colony'; estimates of total recent numbers run to 150,000 of this one species at the site) of Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus) - located in the Firth of Forth Scotland (U.K.) have been very-much affected by the H5N1 avian flu, with reports noting “hundreds” (possibly now into the thousands for all of U.K.) of N. Gannets dead or dying there by early June, and sadly this has been ongoing there.  Various other breeding seabirds at U.K. colonies are being seen as affected by this and these have included birds such as some loons (“divers” in the U.K.) and skua, as well as other groups of strong-flying species.  That same avian flu has been affecting birds in Europe and beyond.  [N.B., the Bass Rock (Scotland) gannetry has inspired a much-read monograph on that species published in the U.K.]

This “H.P.A.I.” is usually or regularly also referred to as H5N1 avian flu and has been documented in at least 35 states in the U.S.A. as of June ’22.  Potentially affected species are many, but already confirmed are varied species (i.e. - some, not all species in any given order or family!) in the [migratory and potentially-migratory] groups such as the Anseriformes (swans, geese, ducks, & etc.), the Suliformes (which includes all Sulidae, which ’sulids’ takes in Gannet species such as Northern Gannet and also booby species, as well as cormorants, shags, & etc.), and the Procellariformes (albatrosses, many types of petrels, and etc.), and a variety of additional *orders* of birds of which some species-groups are very capable of trans-oceanic, long-distance flight.  H5N1 avian flu has also been detected in birds in eastern Canada as well as elsewhere in this year. 

More is being learnt daily on this subject. Many references are available on-line, with one I have noted being this (United States Geological Survey, National Wildlife Health Center - a division in the U.S. federal government): https://www.usgs.gov/centers/nwhc/science/distribution-highly-pathogenic-avian-influenza-north-america-20212022 (this link updated to at least June 14, ’22).  Relative to the state of New York, a chart in the above web page[s] indicates that H5N1 avian flu has been detected in (*some*) wild birds and in (*some*) wild mammals in this state. The chart also indicates detections (of this form of avian flu) in many other U.S. states, and in multiple provinces in Canada, to this year.  I also am aware of information from the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control (U.S.A.), the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (U.K., popularly the RSPB), and multiple other sources in the U.S.A. and also abroad.

There is more-than-anecdotal evidence that in at least Scotland and its’ isles, and some parts of n.-w. Europe such as Svarlbard (Norway), increasingly high numbers of seabirds and waterbirds of multiple species may have succumbed to this flu.  All who might encounter any dead, dying, or affected birds (with this flu) might read-up on this, and try to be cautious in handling such birds if encountered - with the *possibility* for [unintended] spread to other birds, at the least.  (Potential spread from wild birds to humans with H5N1 appears to thus far be limited, perhaps extremely-limited, however that status could potentially be seen differently as studies are ongoing and the science evolves.)

Articles related to this and similar news have been circulating in the bird-forums in recent days and weeks, some from such newspapers as the N.Y. Times, Washington Post, and most of the larger newspapers of the U.K. and esp. of Scotland, as well as in other publications globally.

This ‘brief’ from the Journal ‘Nature’ may shed some additional light on the above subject: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-01338-2 (link should be available to all.)  There also is an article from the Journal ’Science’ however that would seem to require paid-access or membership-privileges.

I have no direct ties with any of above institutions or non-profits.


Tom Fiore
[New York]

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