Monday, February 06, 2023

SENASA: Peru Confirms H5N1 In 3 Sea Lions and A Dolphin


Credit Senasa_Peru


In mid-November Peru confirmed the deepest incursion of HPAI H5 into South America up to that time (see Peru: SENASA Reports HPAI H5 In Pelicans) after several pelicans tested positive on "Los cangrejos" beach in Paita, nearly 1,000 miles south of the first two South American (Colombian) outbreaks reported in late October.

By the end of November, the virus had been reported in neighboring Ecuador, and Peru had reported thousands of dead birds (mostly pelicans), and that they were investigating the suspicious deaths of several sea lions
As we've discussed many times, HPAI H5 may occasionally spill over into mammalian species with unpredictable results. We've already seen HPAI infect mink, bears, foxes, and other small terrestrial mammals in North America and in Europe, but marine mammals appear to be particularly susceptible.

Overnight we saw confirmation from @Senasa_Peru that 3 of the dead sea lions (and 1 dolphin) had indeed tested positive for the H5N1 virus.  I've reproduced the official communication (along with a translation) below). 

(Google Translation)


The National Agrarian Health Service (SENASA) communicates the following:
  1. In order to safeguard the country's poultry health, SENASA has managed to control forty-six (46) outbreaks of type A H5N1 influenza detected in domestic birds from Lambayeque, Cajamarca, La Libertad, Áncash, Lima and Ica.
  2. Epidemiological fences have been maintained and epidemiological surveillance actions have been intensified at the national level for rapid detection; in order to eradicate the disease in the shortest possible time.
  3. The provisions established through the declaration of health emergency remain in force. It is still prohibited to hold gallistic events, to mobilize domestic birds without a SENASA certificate, among other measures.
  4. To reduce the risk of spreading the disease, we urge all Peruvians to continue reporting any case of domestic bird mortality to the cell phone: 946 922 469 or to the email
  5. In relation to the sighting of marine species stranded on the beaches of the Peruvian coast, SERFOR comes carrying out the corresponding actions through the SERFOR Alert WhatsApp (947 588 269).
  6. As part of the articulated work, SERFOR communicated to SENASA the positive results for Avian Influenza type A H5N1 detected in three sea lions (Lima) and one dolphin (Piura); which were reported to the Ministry of Health for follow-up and appropriate measures, within its powers.
  7. When sighting dead or sick sea lions on the beaches, it is important that people follow the recommendations that SERFOR has been providing through its official communication channels.
Lima, February 5, 2023.
Government of Peru
2021-2024 PERU
Ministry of Agrarian Development and Irrigation

Although we've seen sporadic infection of marine mammals with other novel flu viruses in the past (e.g. H3N8 in New England (2011), H10N8 in Germany (2014), H5N8 in the Baltic Sea (2017), etc.), the number and size of HPAI H5N1 spillover events around the globe are notable. 

HPAI H5N1 continues to reassort and evolve as it continues its world tour - generating dozens of new genotypes over the past year - with some being more pathogenic (to birds, and to mammals) than others (see Preprint: Rapid Evolution of A(H5N1) Influenza Viruses After Intercontinental Spread to North America).

Where this all leads is anyone's guess.  We've been on the brink with H5N1 before, only to see it recede.  Maybe we'll get lucky again. 

But this novel virus has never been this widespread and pervasive in wild birds before, its recent penchant for infecting mammals (including humans) and evidence suggesting that it is becoming more neurotropic in mammals, are all warning signs we cannot afford to ignore. 

Stay tuned.