Belize Bans Poultry Imports From Countries Hit By Bird Flu
Text of report by Caribbean Media Corporation news agency website on 17 November

Belmopan, Belize: The Belize government has banned the importation of live birds, poultry, poultry products and hatching eggs from countries affected by the highly virulent H5N1 avian influenza virus.

This was disclosed in a government release on Thursday [17 November].

The H5N1 influenza virus has killed millions of birds across Asia and millions more have been culled in an effort to stem the spread of the virus.

"The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have expressed their concern for animal health as well as public health given the increasing numbers of people affected by the virus and the number of human casualties worldwide which at present amount to 66," the release said.

Avian flu is a disease of the respiratory tract of birds. The cases in humans have been through direct contact with infected poultry or their droppings. Currently there is no evidence of transmission from human to human.

Nevertheless, there are concerns that the virus (H5N1) may mutate to produce human-to-human transmission and cause a worldwide epidemic similar to the Spanish flu of 1918, which caused the death of approximately 40 million people.

Scientific studies conducted in Belize since 2000 have shown that the country is free of all forms of avian flu. Meanwhile, the Health Ministry collaboration with OIRSA, the Belize Poultry Association and the Ministry of Agriculture continue to monitor for the presence of this disease through an active surveillance programme in poultry and wild birds.

"Currently, a National Avian Influenza Prevention Plan is being drafted with inputs from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Ministry of Health, PAHO and OIRSA. The primary objective of this plan is to prevent the introduction of the avian influenza virus in Belize and for control measures in the event that the virus is detected in our country," the release added.

Source: BBC Monitoring Americas