Progression of bird flu. Alarm bells are ringing in Latin America

Argentina, Uruguay and Guatemala declared a health emergency this week due to the spread of bird flu in some birds. In Chile, up to 10,000 specimens are said to have died from this disease, which has already spread to mammals on the American continent. Although it is unusual for it to affect humans, the case of an infected girl in Ecuador has been reported.

The decision of Argentina and Uruguay to declare a state of health emergency after the discovery of the first cases of avian flu raised the level of alert in Latin America on Wednesday due to the advance of this disease, which has affected humans in recent decades and which has recently also been detected in certain mammalian species.

The situation in Argentina and Uruguay is far from isolated, since on Tuesday Guatemala declared a state of emergency after confirming the presence of the H5N1 virus in pelicans.

A similar comment was made by the Minister of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries of Uruguay, Fernando Mattos, who acknowledged that the detection of the first case and the arrival of the disease “is not no surprise”.

The measure by authorities in these South American countries was adopted just hours after Guatemala declared a state of emergency after confirming cases of bird flu in wild birds in the north of the country.


Advance of bird flu on the West Coast of the United States

In the United States, from January 2022 to date, a total of 6,192 cases of bird flu have been detected in wild birds in 50 states, although the majority are concentrated on the West Coast.

In addition, more than 58.3 million cases in domestic birds from 47 states have been recorded during the same period, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Last April, authorities detected the presence of the Colorado H5 virus in a 40-year-old man who worked in a poultry plant. The patient had a high fever for a few days as the only symptom and recovered.

The detection of this human case did not change the public health risk assessment of this disease. In fact, US authorities have done almost nothing against this type of flu and the CDC only recommends avoiding direct contact with birds.

A girl infected in Ecuador

The disease, which on some occasions over the past decades has affected humans, with several fatal cases, continues to be rare in our species, “but we cannot assume that this is always the case and we must be prepared to any changes in the situation,” World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

This disease was first detected in 1996, it has spread widely among birds, both in the wild and in captivity, and WHO continues to work with partners to monitor the evolution of the virus, in particular by studying cases in other animals and in humans. the United Nations’ top health official.

This is what happened in Ecuador, where the case of a 9-year-old girl from the Andean province of Bolívar who was infected by having apparently been in contact with a sick bird was reported. The animal health emergency has been in effect in the country since last November. To date, approximately 1.2 million birds have died or been culled.

In the next two months, a vaccination should begin that will reach two million birds from the farms located in the affected provinces in its first phase, thanks to the acquisition of four million doses that will be provided by the commercial alliance Mexico- Ecuadorian formed by Macuna and Avimex.

In Nicaragua, the authorities decided on Tuesday to strengthen the epidemiological surveillance system for cases of avian flu detected in Central America in wild birds and announced on Wednesday that they would carry out an exercise to prevent Avian Flu.

Bird flu spreads in Cuban zoo

Alarm was raised in Cuba last week when cases of bird flu were detected at the National Zoo in Havana, which is why the enclosure was declared under quarantine.

So far, Brazil has not registered any cases, but given the threat that it could arrive from neighboring countries where it has already been registered, the Ministry of Agriculture has promoted the campaign “Bird flu? Not there!” strengthen prevention measures.

The Latin American giant, world leader in chicken meat exports, with 35% of the market, also promotes the maintenance of surveillance efforts and biosecurity measures in farms, in order to avoid direct and indirect contact between domestic birds. and wild, especially aquatic. the migrants.

The situation in the other countries of the continent

In Costa Rica, the first outbreak of avian flu was detected on January 23 in pelicans in the province of Limón (Caribbean) and subsequently identified other infections in wild birds in this same province and in a poultry farm in the town of Parrita, Puntarenas (Pacific).

For their part, the Salvadoran authorities said on Wednesday that they were on “continuous preventive alert” and “permanent vigilance” against avian flu, although no case has been recorded so far.

The State of Panama has maintained a health alert since December 24, valid for 90 days, after confirming the first case of avian flu. Since then, three cases have been recorded and more than 2,500 birds have been culled.

In Venezuela, the presence of bird flu was also detected in pelicans in December, which is why the authorities declared a state of health alert in five coastal states “for a period of 90 days”, which expires at the end of this month. In addition, the Health, Ecosocialism (Environment), Science and Technology and Agriculture portfolios have put in place, since the end of last year, a National Action Plan for the promotion and prevention of avian influenza, as well as care pathways in positive or suspicious cases. .

The first cases in Peru were detected at the end of November in pelicans. A few days later, the contagion passed to domestic poultry, prompting the Ministry of Health to issue an epidemiological alert. Since then at least 55,000 birds have died and now the focus is on the nearly 600 sea lions and one dolphin who have died from this virus, which has already made the leap to mammals.

Ten thousand dead birds in Chile

For their part, the Chilean authorities have confirmed more than 10,000 dead birds probably due to avian flu, cases which have been detected throughout the territory, with the exception of metropolitan areas – which is home to the capital – in the center , and La Araucanía and Los Ríos to the south. A week ago, the first case was reported in a domestic specimen, detected in a chicken coop in the Atacama desert region in the north of the country.

In Colombia, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, at the end of 2022 there were a few cases, already controlled, that occurred in farms where animals are raised for family consumption, but there are no of cases recorded in large poultry farms, such as industrial ones. Infected animals have been culled and there are currently no active cases of bird flu in the country, but plant health authorities are watching closely.

Since January 14, a health emergency has been in effect in Honduras for 90 days due to the death of pelicans in various coastal communities in the Caribbean. According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, until February 1, 247 dead pelicans had been recorded.

Bird flu mainly affects domestic birds and is classified into two subtypes based on two surface proteins and is considered highly deadly, according to the WHO.

The agency revealed on February 8 that outbreaks of avian flu in mammals such as mink, otters, foxes and sea lions have increased in recent weeks, a worrying phenomenon which it warns “must be monitored. “.


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