Avian influenza (H5N1) in Antarctica and the Arctic
Information on the impact on your trip, positive trends and ongoing conservation efforts
What is the current situation in Antarctica and the Arctic regarding Avian Influenza (H5N1)?
Last Update: 19 January 2024
At Polartours, our commitment is to provide accurate and up-to-date information for the safety and enjoyment of our clients' travel experiences. Recently, there have been concerns about the avian flu in both Antarctica and the Arctic, and its potential impact on travelers. This article aims to shed light on the current situation and provide guidance for those planning to visit these regions with us.
Avian Flu in Antarctica and the Arctic
Avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu, has been a topic of concern in recent years. In 2020, a new highly pathogenic strain (HPAI H5N1) emerged, resulting in severe disease and high mortality rates. While there have been no identified cases in Antarctica to date, the risk is heightened due to the natural migration of species. In the Arctic, bird flu has been detected for the first time, and it has even been found in a polar bear.
Australian scientists are monitoring the situation closely in Antarctica, while in the Arctic, the population is asked to report incidents. If a colony shows any signs of bird flu, the area will be closed down.
Impact on Polartours Travelers
The primary way the disease could arrive in these regions is via migratory birds, with an additional risk of transmission from humans. Therefore, special measures are being taken to prevent this. For instance, the already-rigorous brushing and cleaning of your boots will be even more thorough.
Furthermore, the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) has established extensive procedures and robust guidelines to ensure appropriate, safe, and environmentally sound travel to Antarctica. These include regulations and restrictions on numbers of people ashore, staff-to-passenger ratios, site-specific and activity guidelines, wildlife watching, pre- and post-visit activity reporting, passenger, crew, and staff briefings, and more. **In light of the current situation, *all polar travellers travelers are advised to not sit down on the snow and actively keep a 2 meters distance from wildlife* in both Antarctica and the Arctic**.
Impact on South Georgia Voyages
Due to the current bird flu situation in South Georgia, certain landing sites have been temporarily closed. It is imperative to emphasize, however, that Zodiac cruises remain possible and that there are still opportunities for landings at alternate sites. We remain committed to optimizing our time at all open sites and plan to offer scenic Zodiac cruises at key locations presently closed. We also maintain flexibility in adapting our itineraries to provide possible extra days in the Falklands or Antarctica.
Please note that these decisions are based on the latest information from local governments, IAATO, and our vessels. The Government of South Georgia regularly updates its list of closed sites, showing both reopened locations and new closures. While Cooper Bay, Royal Bay, and St. Andrews Bay have been closed the entire season, predicting closures for upcoming trips remains challenging due to bird flu and weather restrictions.
Despite these challenges, we remain committed to doing everything we can to ensure your clients’ trips are as memorable as possible. Thank you for understanding, and we look forward to successfully navigating these unique circumstances with you.
While the situations in Antarctica, the Arctic, and South Georgia are being monitored closely, it is crucial for Polartours travelers to stay informed and follow the guidelines provided by official sources such as the IAATO. As always, the safety and well-being of our travelers and the preservation of the unique ecosystems of both Antarctica and the Arctic remain our top priorities.
Please note that this information is current as of the time of writing (above) and may change as new information becomes available. Always check with official sources for the most up-to-date information before planning your trip with Polartours.