Brazil Declares Six-Month Animal Health Emergency to Combat Avian Flu Outbreak

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In response to the discovery of several cases of avian flu in wild birds, Brazil has declared a six-month animal health emergency. The country’s authorities have reported seven cases in Espirito Santo state and an additional case in Rio de Janeiro state. This declaration enables the government to swiftly implement measures to prevent the highly infectious H5N1 virus from spreading further. Brazil, known as the world’s largest exporter of chicken meat with annual sales of nearly $10 billion (£8 billion), is taking proactive steps to address the situation.

While the reported cases were found far from the country’s main production areas in the south, past incidents have demonstrated that avian flu cases in wild birds can potentially lead to outbreaks in commercial flocks. Such outbreaks often result in the culling of a significant number of birds and can trigger trade restrictions from other countries. To mitigate the risk, the animal health emergency has been declared nationwide as a precautionary measure for the next 180 days. This move allows the government to implement stringent control measures and surveillance protocols across the country. Authorities are taking heed of the lessons learned from the current global bird flu outbreak, which has been the most severe in history since October 2021. The outbreak has led to a significant number of deaths among wild birds and even affected some mammals. Scientists are still uncertain about the reasons behind the severity of this outbreak compared to previous ones.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) has highlighted the devastating impact on animal health and welfare. Additionally, the World Health Organization (WHO) emphasizes the need for close monitoring of the H5N1 virus’s further spread to assess any potential mutations that could enable human-to-human transmission. At present, cases in humans have been limited to individuals who have had close contact with infected birds. Brazil’s declaration of an animal health emergency underscores its commitment to safeguarding the well-being of both domestic and wild animals, as well as its vital poultry industry. By implementing swift and comprehensive measures, the country aims to contain the avian flu outbreak and mitigate potential economic and health consequences.

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