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Sep 14, 2022

Avian Influenza Poses Threat to Poultry Industry, Blue Creek Farm Quarantined

Avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu, is posing a serious threat to the hundred and fifteen million dollar poultry industry.  As we reported on Tuesday, the Belize Animal Health Authority confirmed that samples from one farm in Blue Creek, Orange Walk District, returned positive results for Avian Influenza Subtype H5. As a result, BAHA noted that it will proceed to depopulate the farm with immediate effect, to prevent any further spread.  That means that several thousand chickens will be disposed of.  Further samples have since been sent to the U.S for processing.  Those results are expected to return next week. Additionally, Cabinet has given financial support towards fighting the new outbreak, while animal health experts are reassuring consumers that it is still safe to eat chicken.  News Five’s Paul Lopez takes a closer look at these developments.

 

Paul Lopez, Reporting

In late 2015 tomid-2016, avian influenza, or bird flu, as it is commonly known, caused close to eight million dollars in losses to the local poultry industry. At the time the virus was detected in the Spanish Lookout Community. It was contained and eradicated within a period of six months. Almost seven years later, avian influenza has been detected once again, this time on a broiler farm in Blue Creek, Orange Walk District.

 

Armando Cowo

Armando Cowo, Manager, Belize Poultry Association

“There are two types of Avian Flu, one that is deadly which is known as the highly pathogenic and there is one that is low pathogenic which circulates within the flock but it doesn’t do much damage. It affects productivity but it doesn’t really have a high mortality rate. Some of them will die and some of them will survive. The low pathogenic is what we are suspecting due to the fact that these birds are still alive. Up to the time I saw them on Tuesday, they are still alive. We know that if it is the high pathogenic one those birds would have been dead.”

 

Samples from the farm were sent to the Poultry Diagnostic and Research Center at the University of Georgia on August fifteenth. Those specimens returned with positive results. Minister of Agriculture, Jose Mai, told News Five that the virus may have originated from chicken eggs imported into the country.

 

Jose Mai

Jose Mai, Minister of Agriculture

“I am confident we will contain it. The farmers are aware of the things they should not do. Everybody is abiding by the protocols, because they understand the importance of the disease, the implications it has. So, I am confident we will contain it to those two barns. We are doing some DNA sequencing to see the source of the virus where it came from. We suspect it came in a batch of eggs imported from a source. But that right now has to be confirmed by our DNA sequencing testing.”

 

The Belize Animal Health Authority has implemented certain measures within a three-mile radius of the farm in Blue Creek to prevent the virus from spreading further. The farm on which the suspected case has been detected is currently under quarantine. Further tests are being done on poultry there to determine the magnitude of the infection. Those samples have been sent to the National Veterinary Lab in the U.S. In the event that it is ascertained that the infection is widespread, BAHA will have to implement more stringent measures across the industry.

 

Armando Cowo

“BAHA ran some test again and up to yesterday they were PCR negative. It simply means that the virus is not there right now. It is like with the COVID 19 virus, if you go through a series of flu’s and event and you go twenty days later to do a test, it will show PCR negative. However, the antigen will be. So, we are doing serology right now and if we get a negative serology right now then we could say all clear. And, if the NVCL gives us a negative result that we are clear so those measures wouldn’t last long. But, if the NVSL gives us a positive result, then we will have to take some stringent measures industry wide.”

 

On Tuesday, Cabinet approved a budget of three hundred thousand dollars as an immediate disbursement to fight the poultry disease.

 

Jose Mai

“Right now we have a budget that was approved by Cabinet, a budget of six hundred and thirty five hundred thousand dollars. Yesterday, three hundred thousand dollars was approved for immediate implementation of the measures, which is acquiring all the equipment for the lab, all the equipment for field staff, on the ground doing the sanitation, to buy all those equipment, we have money for that approved. But, we also have money to put the protocols in place, quarantine, fuel for officers, all the necessary equipment needed for them to be going to the field and so on. But, if you are talking compensation, no we do not have.”

 

The Belize Poultry Association is seeking to reassure consumers that poultry products on the local market are safe to consume.

 

Armando Cowo

“We have to ensure our consumers and the general public that what we are putting out there is safe. People have different interpretations. They might say, well I nuh wah eat chicken because I nuh want ketch the virus. It is not a virus that spreads easily from chicken to human. It has shown, especially the high pathogenic virus that it is able to transmit to human. But it is very low percent. It is almost negligible. But, it is still possible. But, it is not like everyone will start getting infected with flu, no. So, we want to ensure the public the products are safe to consume. You can continue eat chickens and eggs. It is safe, right.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Paul Lopez.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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