The Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA) convened an emergency meeting yesterday Thursday 27th November at Central Farm to disseminate pertinent information to key stakeholders on an outbreak of Newcastle Disease. The objective of the forum was to share the history, current status, socio-economic impact and collaboration needed in addressing this disease.
The event started in Spanish Lookout on the 2 November. The BAHA was informed on the 12 November and since then has engaged in response activities. Initially three diseases were suspected including Avian Influenza. Confirmation was made by a World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) Lab in the US that the disease is Virulent Newcastle Disease and NOT Avian Influenza.
Over 19,000 birds have been depopulated. The contaminated farm has been quarantined. A second contaminated farm was also identified with infected turkeys and quarantined.
The disease can be categorized as velogenic (highly virulent), mesogenic (intermediate virulence) and lentogenic (non-virulent).
The strain confirmed in Belize is velogenic. This raises concern since it is characterized to spread rapidly and can cause up to 90% mortality in birds.
In birds it affects the nervous and respiratory systems.
The measures BAHA has taken are:
Activate their emergency plan (AI Plan). An Incident Command System has been set up.
Depopulate contaminated farms/barns
Implement active surveillance.
(It is suspected that the virus originated from wild birds and farmers in the area are being made aware to remove all foreign birds including pet birds from
The disease is a zoonotic one meaning it can be transmitted between animals and humans. Unlike Avian Influenza there has been no case of human to human transmission.
In humans it can cause mild conjunctivitis and influenza like symptoms. However, at this point there is no threat to the general public. BAHA staff engaged in response activities is taking the necessary biosecurity measures.
The farmers can suffer significant economic impact but are committed at this time not to pass on their cost being incurred in controlling this disease to the consumer.
Since the disease not only affects the bird itself but also egg production there is a potential for egg shortage. Nevertheless, steps are being taken to secure permission to import eggs for the Xmas season aware of the high demand.
The BAHA currently has in place control measures but I will keep you updated on developments since the event is still ongoing and a final determination on source or origin has not been determined. In this regard the Zoonosis Committee has been reactivated and a meeting will be held on Monday 1 st. December, 2008. This disease that can result very costly for Belize.