Antarctica’s largest Covid outbreak yet shuts down US McMurdo Station | Antarctica

Antarctica’s largest Covid outbreak yet shuts down US McMurdo Station | Antarctica

Antarctica’s largest outbreak of Covid-19 has infected 10% of the staff at its largest station, and the US has suspended all domestic travel.

The infections originated at the US-run McMurdo Station, the largest base in Antarctica. The National Science Foundation said it had recorded 98 positive tests since early October, out of a total population of 993.

The fund was “moving to reduce population density to reduce the likelihood of transmission” and suspended all travel to the mainland for the next two weeks to “reassess the situation”.

The outbreak comes as the stations prepare for their peak summer field season, when many scientists fly in for two to three months of research. For a number of bases, this year marked the first full season of Antarctic research after a two-year disruption due to Covid-19. It is not yet clear what impact the travel suspension will have on research projects.

The Covid outbreak is not the first in Antarctica, but it appears to be the largest. in December 2020 the first cases were detected, 36 people tested positive at the base in Chile. A year later, the outbreak infected 11 of 30 people at the Princess Elisabeth research station in Belgium, and in January 2022, 24 cases of the outbreak were found at the Esperanza base in Argentina.

Of the 64 active cases, “most have mild symptoms and are isolated in their rooms,” the NSF said. In an effort to contain the outbreak and stop it from spreading further, the NSF will require residents to spend five days in isolation before traveling to the South Pole or deep field, and will recommend wearing KN-95 masks at all times.

Those who test positive will be required to self-isolate for five days, then wear a mask for an additional five days, and can return to work after two negative tests.

In March, as the world shut down in response to the rapid spread of Covid, Antarctic plans agreed that the pandemic could become a major disaster. With the world’s strongest winds and coldest temperatures, the continent, roughly the size of the US and Mexico, is already dangerous for workers at its nearly 40-year-old base.

According to a National Antarctic Program Board of Managers document seen by The Associated Press; “A highly infectious new virus with significant mortality and morbidity is high in the extreme and austere environment of Antarctica with limited complexity of medical care and public health responses. risk with potentially catastrophic consequences.”

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