The Mexican government has declared a national animal health emergency in the wake of a new outbreak of bird flu that has affected some 1.7 million fowl, leaving around 870,000 dead.
“We have activated a national animal health emergency with the goal of diagnosing, preventing, controlling and eradicating the Type A, sub-type H7N3 bird flu virus,” the country’s agriculture ministry said.
The declaration implies that farmers would have to quarantine and slaughter the infected birds. Contaminated products are to be destroyed, while unaffected poultry are to be vaccinated.
It is unclear how many of the 870,000 dead birds were culled by farmers or killed by the virus.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization also confirmed the outbreak of the epidemic.
The H7N3 virus was detected in the western state of Jalisco, Mexico’s largest chicken-farming region, which produces 11 per cent of the country’s poultry meat and 50 per cent of its eggs.
With poultry farming making up 40 per cent of the country’s total livestock production, the economic loss from the epidemic “is and will be irreparable,” the agriculture ministry stated.
Health officials in the country have been on high alert since the 2009 outbreak of the H1N1 virus, dubbed “swine flu.” That virus grew into a global pandemic and killed up to 17,000 people. Although there have been cases of humans being infected with the H7N3 virus elsewhere in the world, the bird flu virus is not as readily contagious as H1N1.