New Strain of Bird Flu Found in Penguins

Written by on May 9, 2014 in Marine Life, Penguins

Researchers announced this week that a new version of the bird flu has been discovered in Antarctica. This version, H11N2, unlike any other we’ve seen before, was identified after scientists tested a group of Adélie penguins in the Antarctic.

Adélie penguins.

Adélie penguins. Photo credit: NOAA.

The good news, if you can call it that, is that there’s no sign that the virus is particularly deadly, it doesn’t seem to cause illness in the penguins, and isn’t adapted to transmit to mammals.

Study author and Associate Professor Aeron Hurt, PhD, a senior research scientist at the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza in Melbourne, Australia explained in a news release that this is the first time a live influenza virus has been detected in penguins or other birds in Antarctica.

Hurt and colleagues collected blood samples and swabs from the windpipes and posterior openings of Adélie penguins from Admiralty Bay and Rada Covadonga on the Antarctic Peninsula. They found avian influenza virus in eight samples (only 2.7%), six from adults and two from chicks.

The researchers found that all eight samples had H11N2 viruses that were very similar to each other, but “unlike anything else detected in the world,” Hurt said.

Although the virus does’t cause illness, the study shows that avian influenza viruses can make their way to Antarctica and survive in penguin populations.

“It raises a lot of unanswered questions,” Hurt said.

To learn more:

Copyright © 2014 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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