Will avian influenza reach Brazil?

Brazil’s sanitary status as free from avian influenza looks to be increasingly to risk as neighboring countries report a return of the virus.

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Brazil is on high alert as ever more of its neighbors, including three that share a border with the South American giant of poultry production, report cases of avian influenza (AI).

The closing weeks of the year have not been a good for South America’s disease status, with Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela all reporting outbreaks of AI, mostly, but not exclusively, in seabirds.

The entry of avian influenza into the Brazilian flock would have global implications.

The country, in addition to being the world’s second largest poultry meat producer, is the largest exporter. At a time when food price inflation is high around the world, excluding Brazilian chicken meat from global markets would not only be hugely damaging to the country’s industry, but raise the price of chicken on international markets further still.

Extra security recommendations

The Brazilian Association for Animal Protein (ABPA), the country’s swine and poultry producers’ association, has been quick to recommend tightening biosecurity measures and to reassure world markets.

Earlier this month, Ricardo Santin, ABPA President, stated that Brazil did not, and never had had, AI within its borders, and that the industry would strengthen its efforts to keep the disease out of commercial production.

He continued the South American outbreaks had occurred along the coast, in local and migratory seabirds, and that there were geographical factors that would protect the Brazilian industry.

Nevertheless, the sector is on maximum alert. Amongst recommendations is that no one who does not work directly and exclusively at a poultry site should be granted access, while professionals visiting from abroad should undergo quarantine before entering a farm.

The association has launched a huge information campaign and made a number of additional recommendations to help keep the disease out of farms.

Unsurprisingly, the country’s Ministry of Agriculture has also sounded alarm bells, announcing a number of additional measures to ensure that, should the disease enter Brazil, it will be detected as quickly as possible.

Amongst these measures is sample testing from subsistence flocks kept close to where migratory birds are found, to monitor for virus circulation. This will, Ministry argues, also help to demonstrate the absence of infection and support certification that Brazil is AI free.

The best laid plans

But with many countries, particularly the U.S., reporting their worst ever outbreaks of avian influenza, and with the peak migratory season from the Northern Hemisphere to South America being November to April, the world’s second-largest poultry producer looks increasingly threatened.

Brazil’s major poultry producing region does not sit immediately below the major migratory routes, but as ever more of its neighbors are losing their disease-free status, despite also having been on high alert for the disease, it could simply be a matter of time before Brazil follows suit.

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