Posted: Friday, January 6, 2023. 7:32 am CST.
Photo Credit: Rubén Morales Iglesias
By Rubén Morales Iglesias: The Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA) said on Thursday that the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1, or bird flu, was recently confirmed in pelicans on the coast of Puerto Cortes and La Ceiba, Honduras.
BAHA, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprise (MAFSE), the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW), the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Climate Change & Disaster Risk Management, the Regional International Organization for Agricultural Health (OIRSA), and the Belize Poultry Association (BPA) joined in putting out the advisory as the avian influenzas is too close for comfort.
The advisory reiterates that avian influenza was confirmed in Yucatan, Mexico, in November 2022.
“Given the proximity of the infected areas to Belize, the threat level has been increased to high. Belize is therefore strengthening the technical and strategic response, using the One Health approach, to reduce the threat,” said the advisory.
The advisory said the approach includes:
1. Strengthening the inspections of passengers and vessels at all points of entry;
2. Restricting the importation of poultry and poultry products originating from infected countries;
3. Testing and proper disposal of confiscated poultry and poultry products;
4. Strengthening laboratory capacity for in-country molecular testing of the current HPAI circulating strain including surge capacity;
5. Strengthening passive surveillance by encouraging the reporting of mortality, purple coloration in comb and wattle and acute drop in egg production in poultry within the required twenty-four (24) hours;
6. Promoting the reporting of mortality in wild birds and reducing response time;
7. Strengthening active surveillance programs focusing on high-risk areas that are habitats for wild birds and border buffer zones;
8. Strengthening and maintaining high levels of biosecurity in poultry establishments;
9. Fostering partnerships with the public and private stakeholder agencies;
10. Fostering partnerships with the Forest Department and mandated wildlife partners.
BAHA said high mortality in birds should be reported within 24 hours. Reports may be made to BAHA, MAFSE, the Forest Department, MOHW, BPA, or any registered veterinarian.
BAHA further said their veterinary services may be reached at: phone: 824-4872 or 302-1388, WhatsApp: 614-6891, e-mail: [email protected]
Belize suffered a scare last September when samples taken from birds suspected to have low pathogenic avian influenza at 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. The Agriculture Ministry activated the Avian Influenza Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan, the area was quarantined, and 30,340 chickens on three farms were sacrificed at a loss of over $100,000. However, when the National Veterinary Services Laboratory of the USA, a World Organisation for Animal Health Reference Laboratory, conducted further tests of samples taken from 141 flocks in Orange Walk, the results were negative and the quarantine was lifted.
According to MAFSE, the last reported outbreak in Belize was low pathogenic avian influenza in 2015 and since then, no more bird flu cases have been confirmed.
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