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Belize free of Avian Influenza, Minister of Agriculture revokes Order that had suspected infected areas under quarantine

Posted: Thursday, November 10, 2022. 1:12 pm CST.

Photo Credit: MAFSE

By Rubén Morales Iglesias: Belize being declared free of avian influenza, also known as bird flu, the Minister of Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprise Jose Abelardo Mai has revoked the Order of Areas Infected with Avian Influenza (H5) Disease that had those areas under quarantine. The order was lifted upon the recommendations of the Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA) and the Avian Influenza task force.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, initial tests at eight farms returned positive results of Avian Influenza (H5) but further testing of 141 flocks in the declared infected area returned negative.

MAFSE said the Avian Influenza Order was declared on September 15 upon suspicion of low pathogenic avian influenza after samples taken from a farm in Blue Creek in the Orange Walk District tested positive to Avian Influenza in screening serological tests done at an accredited foreign lab.

“A few days later Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests on the same sample at the same lab indicated that the Avian Influenza detected was of the H5 type,” said MAFSE.

“Following the declaration of the infected area, the Avian Influenza task force was activated, an active surveillance programme was implemented and BAHA immediately began engaging stakeholders on prevention, control and eradication measures. 86 farms in the Blue Creek and Shipyard communities were sampled, and 8 farms had weak positive tests for antibodies in screening serological tests conducted by BAHA.”

MAFSE said that even though the mortality rate or clinical signs did not prove to be highly pathogenic avian influenza in the positive farms, the initial results caused the Ministry to activate the Avian Influenza Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan, and to make further investigation of the suspected low pathogenic bird flu outbreak.

“Both BAHA and the private sector agreed to put into effect preventative measures for disease containment in the event the National Veterinary Services Laboratory of the USA, a World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Reference Laboratory confirmed that the disease was actually present,” said MAFSE.

“Further testing of a total of 141 flocks in the declared infected area yielded negative results. Additionally, the positive results on the eight farms on the screening serological tests were not confirmed by advanced serological and molecular tests conducted at the National Veterinary Services Laboratory of the USA, a World Organisation for Animal Health Reference Laboratory.”

MAFSE explained that the Order was a preventive move to allow disease control measures to avoid an animal health crisis had the disease been confirmed.

The Belize Poultry Association’s (BPA) General Manager Armando Cowo told 7 News that despite the cost it was better to err on the side of caution. The chicken producers, he said, acted quickly to avoid a potential spread in light of disruptions in the supply chain.

Cowo said 30,340 birds on three farms were sacrificed; 28,100 regular birds and 2,240 layers (egg-laying hens). The loss was over $100,000.

“Thankfully the results that came in from the OIE Reference Lab on November 4th, 2022, confirm that Belize was free and continues to be free of Avian influenza,” said MAFSE.

MAFSE said Minister Mai extends his deepest appreciation to “the BAHA for their quick response to confirm the suspect Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza (H5) Disease and to place preventative measures for disease containment in the event the disease was confirmed, the Belize Poultry Association especially the poultry industry in Blue Creek and Shipyard for their support in disease investigation and in the measures applied, and the Avian Influenza task force 2022 for their diligence to address the suspect Avian Influenza disease.”

According to MAFSE, the last reported outbreak was low pathogenic avian influenza in 2015 and since then, no more bird flu cases have been confirmed.

“The Blue Creek and Shipyard communities in the Orange Walk District have never had avian influenza,” said MAFSE.

“Belize is free of Avian Influenza and Minister Mai has pledged his support to officially declare Belize as free from Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza after complying with the guidelines and standards of the World Organisation for Animal Health.”


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