Bird Flu Outbreak In Mexico: Over Two Million Birds Killed

1.2 million chickens in Mexico were depopulated because of a bird flu outbreak.

A devastating bird flu outbreak has attacked central Mexico, requiring health authorities to move quickly to control the spread of the disease. Carlos Navarro, reporting for The Poultry Site, said that more than two million chickens in the central state of Guanajuato had been destroyed by the end of February — and the number is growing.

Last Thursday, CNN’s Rafael Romo and Catherine E. Shoichet reported that a state Guanajuato agriculture official said 1.2 million chickens had been destroyed — but that other officials were already saying that the number was much higher, leading to fears about price speculation. Some confusion seems to have arisen because the numbers were broken down for different types of poultry. About 1.2 million egg-laying chickens were slaughtered, while another 900,000 meat chickens were also killed, according to Navarro’s statistics.

Navarro said that officials were particularly worried about keeping the disease from spreading to the nearby state of Jalisco, Mexico’s top egg-producing state. “Jalisco suffered a major outbreak in the summer of 2012 which resulted in heavy price speculation in eggs,” he said.

Reuters reported in early July 2012 that the Mexican authorities were forced to declare a “national animal health emergency.” Over 800,000 infected chickens had to be slaughtered, and uninfected chickens were required to receive vaccinations. But that was only the beginning.

Before that bird flu outbreak had run its course, the Latin American Herald Tribune (LAHT) reported that 2.5 million chickens were dead and over $50 million was lost to the Mexican economy. The price of eggs skyrocketed.

The only good news is that CNN confirmed that this form of bird flu is the H7N3 virus, which can’t infect humans. It can also be prevented or controlled in poultry by a vaccination.

LAHT said that Cesar de Anda, vice chairman of the International Egg Commission, had complained during the 2012 outbreak that, “1 million doses of vaccine acquired from Pakistan remain entangled in red tape at customs even as private labs in Mexico work round the clock to produce 80 million doses in three weeks.”

This time, Mexican authorities have told both CNN and The Poultry Site that vaccines are being used effectively to create a circle around the zone of infection to prevent the disease from spreading. Mexican agriculture official Javier Usabiaga Arroyo stated, “The outbreak is under control.”