A dolphin swims near Dawson Island, in the Strait of Magellan, in Chile, on December 4, 2011.
Almost 9,000 sea lions, Humboldt penguins, chungungos, small cetaceans and one huillín have died this year alone due to the avian influenza, which is particularly severe on the northern coast of Chile.
Information from the National Fisheries Service (Sernapesca) revealed this Thursday that the disease – which they managed to transmit in marine mammals, such as sea lions – is present in 12 of the 16 regions of the country.
The latest species to be affected is the huillín, a genus of otter, which is also a marine mammal, which lives in the Magallanes region, in the southern region.
“Having confirmed the new species and the region is working on active coastal surveillance protocols, arranging the burial of rescued animals with the authorities in charge, so as not to seek the spread of the virus,” said Sernapesca National Director, Esteban Donoso.
To date, a total of “7,654 specimens of sea lions, 1,186 Humboldt penguins, 25 chungungos, 19 porpoises, 12 Chilean dolphins and 1 huillín dead stranded on the shores of the region” were said Sernageomín.
The northern coast of the country is most affected.
Last weekend on the beaches of the Chañaral region there were more than 227 strings of sea lions and 45 Humboldt penguins.
At the end of March, Chile reported its first avian human infection: a 53-year-old man who suffered a case of “severe” flu.
According to Chilean health authorities, there is no person-to-person transmission. Humans contract bird flu only through contact with sick animals.
Chile has also detected the virus in wild birds.