Polar bear dies from bird flu in Alaska and it would be the first reported case

A polar bear found dead near Utqiagvik in northern Alaska is the first known case of a polar bear affected by the bird flu virus that is circulating among animal populations around the world.

The Alaska Division of Environmental Health has confirmed that tissue samples collected from a polar bear (Ursus maritimus) in September showed the presence of the EA H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus.


“This is the first documented case of avian flu in a polar bear anywhere,” state veterinarian Bob Gerlach told the Alaska Beacon.

Gerlach adds that polar bears normally eat seals they catch at sea, but it is likely that this bear ingested the remains of dead birds.


“If a bird dies from this disease and especially if the remains are kept in a cold environment, the virus can remain in that environment for a time,” adds the official.

According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), avian influenza is an infectious disease that mainly affects birds and is caused by a virus of the Orthomyxoviridae family.


Some strains of highly pathogenic avian influenza have the capacity to infect humans, posing a threat to public health.

The most common way by which the virus is introduced into a territory is through migratory wild birds and, according to PAHO, the globalization of travel and trade, as well as the streamlining of exchanges of people and products between countries, They allow rapid spread of infectious diseases from their initial focus.


The National Wildlife Health Center indicates that the first detection of the presence of the bird flu virus in North America occurred in December 2021 in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.

Health authorities estimate that the most recent outbreaks of bird flu have killed millions of birds around the world, and thousands of mammals including black and brown bears (Ursus arctos).

(With information from EFE)