Belize poultry farmers on alert for Bird Flu
Major outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in Mexico puts Belize on national alert.
BELMOPAN, Belize, Thursday July 5, 2012 - Poultry farmers in Belize, especially in border areas near Mexico, are being asked to step up their biosecurity measures as the Belize Agricultural Health Authority has placed a national poultry health alert following Mexico officially reporting a major outbreak of highly pathogenic H7N3 Avian Influenza (“Bird Flu”).
The outbreak has hit three commercial poultry layer farms in the central Mexican state of Jalisco and Belizean authorities have announced that precautionary measures are being taken and border controls along the Belize/Mexico border are being strengthened.
However, in a bid not to create panic and drive down sales, authorities are sending the message that poultry products are safe for human consumption.
“The disease rarely affects humans and requires direct contact with sick birds. In humans, the disease causes conjunctivitis and mild flu symptoms. The outbreak in Mexico started on June 13, 2012. In total, over one million birds are believed to be susceptible across the three farms and over 200,000 have already died from the outbreak. A further 60,000 have been destroyed. The sick birds showed signs of weakness, poor alertness, difficulty in breathing, were lying on their side and had drooping wings prior to death,” stated officials.
Other countries in the region, Guatemala in particular, have also called national alerts and are strengthening their surveillance and diagnostic programmes for Avian Influenza.
Control measures being applied in Mexico include: movement controls on poultry and poultry products; official sampling in commercial poultry farms, backyard poultry farms, and poultry markets; assessment of biosecurity and good livestock practices; and depopulation of affected farms.
This outbreak in Mexico is considered a threat to Belize and the region due to a previous major outbreak in Mexico (in the period 1993 - 1996) where the disease became endemic and also spilled over into Guatemala and El Salvador.
The International Regional Organisation for Health is working with the veterinary services of its member countries to harmonize preparedness and response measures in the face of this outbreak. The Belizean public has been requested to assist increased surveillance by not importing poultry products and reporting any importation to the authorities.