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Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA) says highly infectious bird flu not in Belize, heightens surveillance measures as disease detected in Honduran coast

Posted: Saturday, January 7, 2023. 8:03 am CST.

Photo Credit: Rubén Morales Iglesias

By Rubén Morales Iglesias: Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA) has increased its surveillance measures to contain the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1, or bird flu, from entering Belize as the disease had already made its presence in pelicans on the coast of Puerto Cortes and La Ceiba, Honduras.

“Categorically, we are still free of avian influenza, and we plan to remain so,” Interim Chief Veterinary Officer at BAHA Dr Joe Myers told Breaking Belize News.

Dr Myers said BAHA has received reports of sick pelicans in Belize City and Placencia, but it verified that none were sick with avian influenza.

“We’ve been meeting since the 27th of April, so we’ve been well ahead of the game, so to speak, but the way the disease has been travelling, via wild birds, it’s imminent that it will eventually reach here, so we have to buckle up,” Dr Myers said.

“Initially it was diagnosed in Panama about a month ago. And then the day before yesterday, it was diagnosed in Puerto Cortes, Honduras, which is right across the bay,”

Myers said that BAHA established communication with the Forest Department which has its Wildlife Partners like the Belize Zoo and the Belize Wildlife Referral Clinic, and to avoid information being channeled improperly it was decided that these organizations should inform the Forest Department which in turn will inform BAHA.

Dr Myers said the bird flu can affect humans, so if a bird is found sick or dead, BAHA should be informed within 24 hours, but the bird or birds should only be handled by BAHA trained personnel. In cases when a bird is almost decomposed, it should be burned, but an investigation will still be carried out.

“Ideally, we would want to test the bird, but we also want to preserve life. We don’t want to risk human life just to take a sample,” Dr Myers said.

“It’s a flu, and like every other disease, the old, the young, the immune compromised, almost like COVID, are at risk,” Dr Myers said adding that the people that could be severely affected are almost the same as Covid-19, people who suffer from high blood pressure and diabetes, and the control measures are pretty much the same involving masking and washing hands properly.

So, it’s best not to touch a sick or dead bird.

What a person has to do is inform BAHA immediately. That can be done directly or through the Ministry of Agriculture, the Forest Department, the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the Belize Poultry Association, or any registered veterinarian.


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