A COVID-19 epidemic has struck a U.S. Antarctica station, despite it being located in one of the most remote parts of the globe.
According to McMurdo Station, the largest continent-wide base, the National Science Foundation has confirmed that at least 98 of the 993 workers have tested positive for HIV/AIDS since October 1st.
64 of the cases are currently active. According to the NSF, most employees are experiencing mild symptoms and are staying in their rooms. It is not clear how the outbreak started.
The NSF has halted all travel to Antarctica in the next two weeks, except for those essential for safety and health reasons.
The foundation stated that this was done to “lower the density of the population to reduce the possibility for transmission”, and will then “reassess” the situation.
It is not clear if any research projects will be affected by the travel pause. This happens as scientists travel to Europe for the summer field season. They work there for approximately two to three months.
It is not known if the pause will continue beyond two weeks.
Positive test subjects must be isolated for five days, then put on a mask for five more days.
After two negative tests, they are permitted to return to work.
The foundation also stated that it recommends that all base workers wear KN95 masks and that NSF will ensure they are available to McMurdo residents.
This is not the first COVID-19-related outbreak in Antarctica.
At least 11 of 33 workers from Belgium’s Princess Elisabeth Polar Station were positive for the virus in December 2020.
Additionally, 36 COVID-19 cases were also confirmed by staff at Chile’s Bernardo O’Higgins research station, Antarctic Peninsula.
McMurdo Station, which was established in 1955, is one of three Antarctica-based science facilities that are open all year.
According to NSF, the station consists of 85 buildings, including dormitories, laboratories, repair facilities, dormitories, firehouses, and a power plant. The station also has a harbor, landing areas, and a paid helicopter.
McMurdo scientists are focused on research in many areas, including biology, geospace sciences, and glaciology, as well as climate systems.