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Belize Declared Free of Avian Influenza Virus

In January, there was a detection of pathogenic avian influenza H5N2 in western Belize.  Although it was on a minimal scale, the Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA) went ahead and implemented some control measures while designating quarantined areas.  Today, via a press release from BAHA, we can tell you that those measures are being lifted effective immediately.  The release informed that the last detected case was about ninety five days ago and the depopulation and decontamination process was completed on June 9, 2015.  With Belize being compliant with the international standards of the World Health Organization for Animal Health, the western portion of Belize has now been declared free of Avian Influenza, three months after decontamination.  As it pertains to the losses experienced by the poultry industry and Government, due to the presence of the virus, BAHA reports that the figure stands at just over six million dollars.  Despite, the success in eradicating the virus, BAHA remains alert and cautions agricultural stakeholders to continue their vigilance in order to maintain the current status as there exists a high threat of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus being introduced by migratory wild birds from North America.  It is to be noted as well that the movement of live poultry other than one-day old chicks, continues to be restricted until further notice as BAHA and the private sector are undergoing a process where risks are being identified and regulations are being enhanced and implemented for poultry establishments and the movements of live poultry and poultry litter.  In the release issued this morning by the Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA), it spoke of the eradication efforts that were made in collaboration with several agencies, saying, quote, “The successful eradication of this avian influenza disease outbreak was possible because of government’s immediate and strong intervention. BAHA worked in close partnership with the Belize Poultry Association and the poultry producers in eliminating this grave threat to the sector. Both OIRSA and Mexico provided technical assistance as well as resources to help control the outbreak. It must be noted that Belize is the only country in the region to have successfully eradicated the avian influenza virus.”  End of quote.  As a final note in the release, BAHA notified consumers that poultry meat and eggs are safe for human consumption.  According to the World Health Organization’s website, the influenza viruses circulating in animals pose threats to human health as humans can become ill when infected with viruses from animal sources, such as avian influenza virus subtypes H5N1 and H9N2 and swine influenza virus subtypes H1N1 and H3N2. The primary risk factor for human infection appears to be direct or indirect exposure to infected live or dead animals or contaminated environments.