Argentina, Uruguay and Guatemala declared a health emergency this week due to the spread of avian flu in some birds. In Chile, up to 10,000 specimens would have died from this disease, which has already spread to mammals on the American continent. Although it is uncommon for it to affect humans, a case of an infected girl in Ecuador has been reported.
The decision by Argentina and Uruguay to declare a health emergency after the discovery of the first cases of avian flu raised this Wednesday the alert level in Latin America due to the spread of the disease, which has started to affect humans in recent decades and which has recently also been detected in some species of mammals.
The situation in Argentina and Uruguay is far from isolated, as on Tuesday Guatemala declared a state of emergency after confirming the presence of the H5N1 virus in pelicans.
“The confirmation of the entry of the virus in the country makes us more alert, but it does not surprise us”, admitted the Secretary of Agriculture of Argentina, Juan José Bahillo.
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 a surprise”.
The measure taken by the authorities of these South American countries was adopted a few hours after Guatemala declared a state of emergency following the confirmation of cases of avian flu in wild birds in the north of the country.
Advance of avian flu on the west coast of the USA
In the US, from January 2022 to date, a total of 6,192 cases of avian flu have been detected in wild birds in 50 states, although most are concentrated on the west coast.
In addition, more than 58.3 million cases in poultry from 47 states were recorded in the same period, indicate the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2-year-old male who worked in a poultry farm. The patient had a high fever for a few days as the only symptom and recovered.
The detection of this case in humans did not alter the public health risk assessment of this disease. In fact, US authorities have practically not acted against this type of flu and the CDC has limited itself to recommending that direct contact with birds be avoided.
An infected girl in Ecuador
The disease, which on some occasions in recent decades has even affected humans, with several fatal cases, continues to be rare in our species, “but we cannot assume that this will always be the case and we must be prepared for any change in the situation. ”, said the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
This disease was first detected in 1996, has spread widely among birds, both free-range and in captivity, and WHO continues to work with its partners to monitor the evolution of the virus, especially studying cases in other animals and humans. highest health official of the United Nations.
This is what happened in Ecuador, where the case of a 9-year-old girl from the Andean province of Bolívar who was infected apparently had 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, around 1.2 million birds have died or been culled.
In the next two months, the start of a vaccination is planned that will reach two million birds from farms located in the provinces affected in its first phase, thanks to the acquisition of four million doses that will be supplied by the Mexican-Ecuadorian commercial alliance 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 on Wednesday announced that between March 13 and 17 they will carry out an exercise to prevent avian flu.
Avian flu advances in Cuban zoo
Alarms went off in Cuba last week when cases of avian 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 of arriving from neighboring countries where it has already been registered, the Ministry of Agriculture has been promoting the campaign “Avian flu? Not here!” reinforce prevention measures.
The Latin American giant, world leader in the export of chicken meat, with 35% of the market, also promotes the maintenance of surveillance efforts and biosecurity measures on farms, in order to avoid direct and indirect contact between domestic and wild birds. , mainly migratory aquatics.
The situation in other countries of the continent
In Costa Rica, the first outbreak of avian influenza was detected on January 23 in pelicans in the province of Limón (Caribbean) and later other infections were identified in wild birds in that same province and in a farm in the city of Parrita, Puntarenas (Pacific). .
For their part, authorities in El Salvador said on Wednesday that they are on “continuous preventive alert” and on “permanent vigilance” against avian flu, although no cases have been registered so far.
The state of Panama maintains a health alert since last December 24, valid for 90 days, after the confirmation of the first case of avian flu. Since then, three cases have been registered and more than 2,500 birds have been culled.
In Venezuela, the presence of avian 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 implemented, since the end of last year, a National Action Plan for the promotion and prevention of avian flu, as well as assistance routes in positive cases or suspects .
The first cases in Peru were detected at the end of November in pelicans. Days later, the contagion spread to domestic birds, which led 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 that have died from this virus, which has already made the leap to mammals.
Ten thousand birds killed in Chile
For its part, the Chilean authorities have confirmed more than 10,000 dead birds presumably due to avian flu, cases that have been detected throughout the territory, with the exception of the metropolitan regions -which is home to the capital- in the center, and La Araucanía and Los Ríos in the south. . A week ago, the first case was registered 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 some cases, already controlled, that occurred on farms where animals are raised for family consumption, but there is no record of cases in large poultry farms, such as industrial ones. The infected animals were slaughtered and currently there are no active cases of avian flu in the country, but the phytosanitary authorities are attentive.
Since last January 14, a health emergency has been in effect in Honduras for 90 days due to the death of pelicans in several coastal communities in the Caribbean. According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, up to February 1, 247 pelicans had died.
Avian flu mainly affects domestic poultry and is classified into two subtypes based on two surface proteins and is considered highly lethal, according to the WHO.
The agency revealed on February 8 that outbreaks of avian flu in mammals such as martens, otters, foxes and sea lions have multiplied in recent weeks, a worrying phenomenon that, it warned, “must be monitored”.