An outbreak of H7N3 avian influenza in the Mexican state of Aguascalientes was confirmed on January 8, 2013. Aguascalientes, located in central Mexico, is close to the state of Jalisco where a H7N3 outbreak occurred in the summer of 2012. Mexican authorities have reported to the OIE, the world animal health organization, that around 300,000 laying hens have been culled from two table egg farms as a first step in stopping spread of the virus.

The Mexican national health, food safety and quality service, SENASCIA, reports that 6 million doses of the vaccine developed for use in the 2012 Jalisco outbreak will be used on the seven poultry farms, two layer and five broiler, in the vicinity of the Aguascalientes outbreak farms. SENASCIA reports that the virus isolated in the current outbreak is genetically 99 percent similar to the virus isolated in the Jalisco outbreak.

The quick response of egg producers and the Mexican authorities create the possibility that this outbreak can be contained sooner rather than later. Having a vaccine available immediately that was developed to control a genetically similar virus works in favor of this outbreak being far less damaging than was the Jalisco outbreak which ultimately caused the loss of around 25 million birds. Quick decisive action is generally beneficial when eradication of a disease is the necessary control step.

Some past avian influenza outbreaks in other parts of the world have managed to get somewhat out of control because steps to depopulate and or vaccinate where not initiated soon enough. The swift response taken by Mexican authorities coupled with the availability of a vaccine that is likely to be effective both work in favor of this outbreak being resolved quickly.

We all hope that any further losses of birds will be minimal.