Bird flu hitting Chilean wildlife hard

Bird flu has killed almost 9,000 marine animals, Sernapesca reports. The sickness is also spreading among the country’s endangered Humboldt penguins. In contrast, poultry farms have mostly avoided the ravages of the flu.

Over the last five months, the bird flu has killed almost 9,000 marine animals in Chile. That was reported by Chile’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Service (Sernapesca) on May 25. These include more than 7,600 sea lions and over 1,000 Humboldt penguins. The spread of the sickness among the Humboldt population is especially worrisome: it is an endangered species that only breeds in Chile and Peru.

That same day, Chile’s Minister of Agriculture Esteban Valenzuela reported that the bird flu has only minimally impacted the agricultural industry. Less than one percent of the country’s poultry industry has been affected by the flu, he announced. In addition, he stated that over the last month, no new infections have been reported in any poultry companies.  

Valenzuela congratulated the Agriculture and Livestock Service for its “remarkable effort”  to prevent the virus from spreading.

The price of eggs in Chile is not heavily influenced by bird flu, the minister added. Instead, the recent price increase is due to the war in Ukraine, which has resulted in a worldwide jump in corn prices, the primary feed for poultry farms.

The price for a tray of 30 eggs has almost reached $7,000 Chilean pesos ($8.57 U.S. dollars). A year ago, the same tray cost about CLP$4.000 (US$4.90).


Bird flu in Chile

Avian Influenza, better known as bird flu, was detected in Chile in December 2022. The disease is caused by a contagious virus, and naturally appears among wild, aquatic animals. The virus doesn’t normally transmit to humans, but sporadic human infections have been reported.  

Initially, the virus only spread among wild birds and sea mammals, but early March 2023 it was found in a domestic poultry facility in Rancagua. Thereafter, the disease rapidly spread to poultry farms throughout the entire country.

Early April, a Yellow Alert was announced in the northern Antofagasta Region, when the virus was detected in a human.

As for wild animals, cases have been reported in 12 different regions, from the northern region of Arica to the southern region of Magallanes. So far, 43 marine animal carcasses have tested positive for the disease. However, Sernapesca makes the assumption that the thousands of other marine animals that have been found dead along the coast over the last month were likewise killed by the flu.

Most carcasses have been found in the northern regions. Sernapesca has initiated surveillance work along the coast, and started removing the carcasses from beaches in order to prevent the virus from spreading further. 

Also read: 

Chile declares first bird flu outbreak in poultry


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