Brazil declares animal health emergency amid avian flu cases

The 180-day emergency comes after the South American nation confirms eight cases of H5N1 in wild birds in two states.

A test tube labelled 'Bird Flu', eggs and a piece of paper in the colours of the Brazilian national flag are seen in this illustration [File: Dado Ruvic/Reuters]

Brazil has declared an animal health emergency for six months after authorities detected its first-ever case of avian influenza virus in wild birds, according to a document signed by the government’s agriculture minister.

The South American nation, the world’s biggest chicken meat exporter with $9.7bn in sales last year, has confirmed at least eight cases of the H5N1 virus in wild birds, including one in Rio de Janeiro state and seven in the neighbouring state of Espirito Santo.

Infection by the H5N1 subtype of avian flu in wild birds does not trigger trade bans, based on guidelines of the World Organization for Animal Health.


However, a case of bird flu on a farm usually results in the entire flock being killed and can trigger trade restrictions from importing countries.

The country’s agriculture ministry said later on Monday it has created an emergency operations centre to coordinate, plan and evaluate “national actions related to avian influenza”.

While Brazil’s main meat-producing states are in the south, the government is on alert after the confirmed cases, as avian flu in wild birds has been followed by transmission to commercial flocks in some countries.


Shares in Brazil-based BRF SA, the world’s biggest chicken exporter, were up 3.6 percent before the government announcement and ended the day 0.5 percent lower.

Over the weekend, the Health Ministry said samples of 33 suspected cases of avian influenza in humans in Espirito Santo, where Brazil confirmed the first cases in wild birds last week, came back negative for the H5N1 subtype.

Last year, five human bird flu cases were reported. However, past human cases of H5N1 avian influenza have had a 53 percent mortality, according to the World Health Organization.

In April, the WHO said a 56-year-old woman in southern China died after testing positive for the avian influenza subtype H3N8, marking the first human death from that strain of bird flu.

The H3N8 virus is known to have been circulating since 2002 and is considered less dangerous for both domestic poultry and wild birds than H5N1.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies