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Mexico: avian flu hits poultry farms

4 July 2012

Mexico has declared a national animal health emergency after an outbreak of bird flu in western Mexico has infected nearly 1.7 million poultry since its detection in June 2012.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) confirmed that nearly 870,000 of the H1N1 virus infected birds were either culled or died naturally.

The authorities detected the virus in the cities of Tepatitlan and Acatic in Mexico's largest chicken farming state Jalisco, where 11% of the country's poultry meat and 50% of its eggs are produced.

In order to prevent the outbreak of the disease to other parts of Mexico or other states, the country has initiated a national emergency plan. The government has ordered vaccinations from Asia and is developing its own vaccines to fight the flu.

Strict controls have also been put in place on the transportation of poultry, poultry products and other animals, and infected birds or those at risk of infection will be culled, while infected products will be destroyed.

"In order to prevent the outbreak of the disease to other parts of Mexico or other states, the country has initiated a national emergency plan."

Mexico produces nearly 3.3 million tonnes of poultry annually, but most of the production is consumed locally. Health authorities have been keeping a close watch on new viruses in Mexico ever since a deadly outbreak of the H1N1 virus (swine flu) in 2009 killed 17,000 people.

Meanwhile, China's Xinjiang region also reported an outbreak of bird flu. Authorities culled more than 150,000 chickens and quarantined the area in order to limit the virus.

According to the United Nations, the bird flu is not easily transmittable between humans, even though it has occasionally led to human disease in various parts of the world.