Unusual animal mortalities, although rare, have been observed amongst Antarctic wildlife. It is always possible that such phenomena are caused by disease introduced or spread by humans.
The Australian Antarctic Division has developed an Unusual Animal Mortality Response Plan PDF to provide guidance on what to do if sick or dead animals are discovered in unusually high numbers or with signs that suggest disease.
Unusual Animal Mortality Response kits are provided to each station and ship and taken on major field expeditions.
They contain the equipment necessary to record an event, undertake post-mortem examinations and prepare samples for transport and subsequent analysis, together with instructions on procedures and safety precautions to reduce the likelihood of people spreading the infectious agent, or acquiring infection themselves, if a zoonotic agent is involved.
The kits contain disposable rubber gloves, over-shoes, overalls and surgical masks, as well as other items necessary to prevent the possible spread of disease to other locations.