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BAHA warns that bird flu can infect humans; says not to touch any sick, dead birds

Posted: Wednesday, January 11, 2023. 7:00 pm CST.

Photo Credit: Rubén Morales Iglesias

By Rubén Morales Iglesias: After Avian Influenza (bird or avian flu) was detected in Honduras, the Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA) has warned that the disease can infect humans, such as in the case of a nine-year-old girl infected in Ecuador, and advised everyone not to touch any sick or dead birds.

BAHA is on high alert and heightened surveillance measures because of the cases of pelicans infected with Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 along the Atlantic coast of Honduras.

“Categorically, we are still free of avian influenza, and we plan to remain so,” BAHA Interim Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Joe Myers told Breaking Belize News. He said BAHA has received reports of sick pelicans in Belize City and Placencia but had verified that none were sick with avian influenza.

Considering bird flu can affect humans, Dr. Myers said BAHA is advising people that if they come across sick or dead birds, they shouldn’t touch them and should report the cases to BAHA immediately.

The bird or birds should only be handled by BAHA-trained personnel. Myers also advised that COVID-19-type measures should be followed if people find sick or dead animals or in the case of any bird flu outbreak.

“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.

Dr. Myers also said that if the bird is decomposed it should be burned, but warned that BAHA will still carry out an investigation.

“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.

BAHA may be reached directly or through the Ministry of Agriculture, the Forest Department, the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the Belize Poultry Association, or any registered veterinarian.

In the case of the infected child in Ecuador, the Health Ministry said they presume she was infected by direct contact with birds carrying the virus.

The Ecuadorean Ministry of Health advised citizens to follow the safety protocols of handwashing, wearing of masks, and vaccination against influenza. It also advised people to go to health centers in case of symptoms like cough and sore throat.


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