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Statement on seal pup deaths from Avian Influenza in Argentina

The Action for Animal Health coalition is devastated by the deaths of thousands of seal pups in Argentina caused by a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza.

Domestic birds and wildlife are experiencing a pandemic. It is impacting the welfare of animals, conservation of birds and mammals, trade, livelihoods, and the mental health of farmers.

Avian influenza is a zoonotic disease. Whilst this strain of avian influenza does not transmit from person to person right now, the changing pattern of the virus means that its trajectory is difficult to predict, and no one can be certain of the outcomes at this stage.

Governments, multilateral organisations and donors need to learn the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic and focus on preventing zoonotic diseases at source through a One Health approach. The coalition calls on them to invest in building strong animal health systems that can prevent and detect cases of avian influenza – as well as other zoonotic and animal diseases – as quickly as possible.

The current response to avian influenza should include short term actions that protect animal welfare, public health and livelihoods. This should include active and passive surveillance, as well as better data and intelligence sharing between all ministries involved and across borders.

In the long term, the response should focus on building stronger animal health systems holistically for prevention, early detection and rapid response to outbreaks of disease in domestic animals and wildlife.

As negotiations on a new pandemic accord reach the final stretch, the coalition urges all member states to consider the catastrophic impact of avian influenza and support the need for obligations that prevent zoonotic diseases at source.

Read our full position paper on Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza here.