Latin America faces unprecedented bird flu outbreak | Wired

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have released the latest epidemiological information on the outbreak of avian influenza in Latin America. At least 15 countries in the region have also reported the presence of HPAI A(H5N1) virus. The groups assured that the spread of influenza in birds and mammals in Latin America had not been seen since the worldwide monitoring of the situation.

From November 2021 to August 2023, Avian Influenza Health authorities from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, the United States, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela have detected the virus. Based on case surveillance, transmission of the HPAI A(H5N1) strain occurs more along the Pacific migration route.

Infected wild birds were identified in 15 countries, half of which reported infections in farmed and backyard birds. Only five countries have reported cases of infection in mammals, with red foxes, skunks and sea lions affected. The continued spread of the virus in other species is a major indicator of alarm for health authorities.

The Pan American Health Organization report outlines the spread of bird flu in the Americas. Human infection is indicated in red. (Photo: PAHO)

During three years of continuous monitoring, three incidents of the virus infecting humans were reported. The United States, Ecuador, and Chile faced patients of different ages and health conditions. In each epidemic, bird flu patients required hospitalization and assisted breathing, but they all survived. On average, the A(H5N1) virus has a 50% mortality rate in humans, but this percentage may vary depending on the strain analyzed.

So far, the virus has not mutated enough to spread from person to person. There is no evidence to the contrary. Case statistics around the world indicate that avian influenza is transmitted from animals to humans primarily in poultry farms and commercial poultry facilities. Handling of poultry carcasses, plucking and direct or indirect contact with contaminated manure are high risk factors.

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“Countries are urged to engage in multisectoral collaboration to maintain health
animals, protect human health.Implementing preventive measures is crucial
Aiming at the source of bird flu, a detection, notification and response plan has been formulated
Animal Outbreak Response, Animal and Influenza Surveillance
Conduct human, epidemiological and virological investigations of outbreaks
In animal and human infections, the genetic information of the virus is shared,
Encourage collaboration between the animal and human health fields to
effectively risk and ensure that all countries are prepared for a potential influenza pandemic
level”, the Pan American Health Organization recommends.

As part of efforts to mitigate infection in more countries on the African continent, PAHO is training Latin American countries on the management of infected birds during avian influenza emergencies. The last one will be implemented in July 2023, by officials from the veterinary services of Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama, Peru, Paraguay, El Salvador and Uruguay. According to the official statement, government personnel were trained in methods related to biosecurity, population reduction, composting and decontamination.

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