There is a full-fledged outbreak of avian influenza in Jalisco, Mexico. First detected a month ago, it has since spread to 58 farms - and the concern now is that it may come over to Belize.

That's because of two risk factors: contraband and the fact that avian influenza is carried by wild birds - and they don't need any visa to cross borders.

Today we spoke with BAHA's director of animal health, Miguel DePaz who told us it is "likely" that avian influenza will come to Belize. First he explained why it would be dire for the poultry industry:

Miguel DePaz, BAHA's director of animal health
"The disease is known as highly pathogenic avian influenza H7N3 affecting only poultry and because the area is known for large numbers of poultry it is very important that the Mexican authorities contain this dreadful disease. It is known as highly pathogenic because it kills more than 75% of the birds. The state of Jalisco is poultry state with more than 75 million birds. The distraction that is going on right now in that state is numerous."

"Belize is presently on the state of alert. Difficult to contain a disease as such because it spreads by wild birds mainly, so it's very difficult to stop wild birds from moving from one country to another, so we must be on alert."

Jules Vasquez
"It hasn't extended beyond Jalisco and its hasn't extended into any contiguous state to Belize?"

Miguel DePaz
"As far as we know it's only in the state of Jalisco. But as I say the way the disease gets transmitted its very difficult to contain, so countries bordering with Mexico such as Guatemala and Belize; Belize is really on alert mode. Guatemala - because there is more trade with Mexico and Guatemala - there are in a mode of emergency."

"Should this be detected in Belize - what will it mean for the poultry industry here?"

Miguel DePaz
"That industry in Belize is very important; we are talking about 50-60 million dollars. It's very serious, the important thing to do is as soon as it comes in we need to detect it and contain it. The poultry employs over 2,500 people. It's an important sector in terms of GDP, its 75% of the livestock GDP."

Jules Vasquez
"What is the percentage likelihood that it may somehow interlope into Belize?"

Miguel DePaz
"Well if we go back and talk about the H5N2 avian influenza outbreak in Mexico in the year 1994 - that disease spread to Guatemala in the year 2000 and then in 2001 it spread to El Salvador. So you see, given that we need to be prepared. It's likely that it can come to Belize."

Jules Vaquez

Miguel DePaz
"It is likely given the way how the disease gets transmitted. Imagine a wild bird in the state of Jalisco expose to the virus and coming here to Belize."

Avian influenza does not pose significant health risks to humans - and only those who work directly with infected birds could get symptoms of conjunctivitis or flu.

Channel 7