Three birds confirmed with bird flu on isolated Galapagos Islands

Science and Health

Three birds on the Galapagos Islands have been found to be infected with H5N1 avian influenza, according to preliminary information published by the Galapagos National Park Directorate.

The Galapagos Islands, an archipelago located hundreds of kilometers off the coast of Ecuador, are known for their large number of diverse and unusual endemic species, including finches and cormorants, which helped Charles Darwin develop his theory of evolution in the 1830s.

According to the national park directorate, a number of dead birds have been spotted around the islands, with five birds collected for sampling. Of the five, three have tested positive for H5N1 bird flu in preliminary tests, although the samples were sent to the National Institute for Research in Public Health (INSPI) for further testing.

The National Environmental Authority on the archipelago has activated biosafety protocols in order to fight the spread of the virus, including closing visiting sites where infected birds have been found.

Tour operators were also instructed to intensify the disinfection of footwear and clothing when arriving at and leaving from each site. The authorities are continuing to monitor the habitats of birds on the islands in order to evaluate the situation.

A scientist works with samples taken from birds after Ecuador’s Gapalagos National Park (PNG) said that three birds had died of avian flu in Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador September 18, 2023. (credit: Ecuador’s Galapagos National Park/Handout via Reuters)

“This state ministry deeply regrets the arrival of this virus to Galapagos. We have mobilized all our resources and experts to implement measures that reduce the impact on this unique ecosystem. However, we are issuing an urgent call to the public: if you find sick or dead birds, do not touch them or pick them up,” said Ecuador’s Environment Minister José Antonio Dávalos.

Avian influenza outbreaks continue to spread across the globe

The cases in Ecuador were reported as outbreaks of H5N1 avian influenza continues to affect birds and mammals in the Americas and Europe. The outbreaks began in 2021 and have continued since without significant breaks, in contrast to the seasonal pattern of outbreaks in the past.

The spread of the virus in the past few years has been described as “the largest-ever” outbreak on all three continents. The outbreak, as well as other strains of the virus, has also spread to other locations around the globe.

South Africa has been dealing with an outbreak of the H7N6 strain of the virus, with millions of chickens killed by the outbreak.