Skip to main content

Upcoming issues of importance

Avian influenza

Avian flu is a viral infection that is highly contagious among birds and is found in domestic poultry and wild birds. Recently, infection has also been identified in mammals. All wild birds carry avian influenza viruses. Some are called “low pathogenic” strains because they cause no to minor symptoms. Some are called “high pathogenic” strains because they result in severe disease and high mortality rates. The spread and progress of avian flu is a continuing and evolving situation that is constantly changing. Right now, we are concerned about Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) and the specific strain H5N1 which has killed hundreds of thousands of birds in the northern hemisphere and has spread very rapidly to the southern hemisphere.

Source: (COMNAP)

Presentations from the EPB Webinar on Avian Flu 23/08/23:

Avian Influenza 101 - Michelle Willie

Risk of Avian Influenza in Antarctica - Meagan Dewar

Monitoring and sharing information about HPAI in the Canadian Arctic - David Hik

HPAI in Humans - Jeff Ayton

Other resources:
Heightened Risk of Avian Influenza in the Antarctic Treaty Area - Information Paper submitted by SCAR, IAATO & COMNAP
IAATO 2022-23 Biosecurity Protocols Regarding Avian Influenza (IAATO)
Avian influenza overview March – April 2023 (EFSA EU)
Bird flu (avian influenza): latest situation in England (UK Government)
Avian influenza (bird flu): how to spot and report the disease (Scottish Government)
Avian flu in the North and Canada (Government of Canada)
NCCEH - National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health (NCCEH Canada)
Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) Outbreaks and Biosecurity Toolkit from USDA APHIS (Government of Alaska)
Ongoing avian influenza outbreaks in animals pose risk to humans (WHO)
Avian Influenza Resources by Michelle Wille


Heightened Risk of Introduction of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in Antarctica, News 18th December 2023

Important Update from COMNAP: More suspected and confirmed cases of HPAI in the sub-Antarctic. See graphic display of suspected and confirmed cases as they are reported here.

Currently, there are no identified cases of HPAI in the Antarctic region. There are cases suspected and confirmed in the sub-Antarctic Island all likely introduced through natural migration of the birds to the islands in the past several weeks. We can’t stop the natural migration of birds and so we cannot stop the virus from spreading to Antarctica. But, we can look for signs of HPAI in Antarctic species and report those signs, take extra precautions to prevent the intra-continental spread of the virus by human activity, and protect our human expeditioners from contracting the disease from infected birds and mammals.

Read more about HPAI Preparedness, Monitoring & Response here:


Sub-Antarctic and Antarctic Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 Monitoring Project, News 31st October 2023

The Antarctic Wildlife Health Network (AWHN) has established a HPAI database to monitor and record information submitted to the AWHN on the spread of HPAI outbreaks in the sub-Antarctic and Antarctica throughout the 2023/24 Austral Summer. This database will form a central reporting database to collate detailed scientific information on all suspected and confirmed outbreaks throughout the sub-Antarctic and Antarctica. The AWHN will also provide regular updates on current cases and recommendations, a visual display of all cases via MAPPPD ( and regular bulletins.

To learn more, visit:


Antarctic wildlife: Risk of Avian Influenza, News 13th September 2023

A risk assessment by SCAR Antarctic Wildlife Health Network (AWHN) predicts that Influenza virus H5N1 will hit the sub-Antarctic and Antarctic Peninsula this season with devastating impacts on seabird and pinniped colonies throughout the region.

Media release:
AWHN Paper:

The AWHN has provided extensive guidelines and recommendations for enhanced biosecurity, surveillance and monitoring for the scientific and tourism community. For further information or media enquiries in relation to the risk assessment please contact Dr Meagan Dewar, Chair of the Antarctic Wildlife Health Network

For enquiries from the SCAR, COMNAP or IAATO Secretariats or the CEP please contact:

Related Articles: