Bird flu in Brazil: authorities declare animal health emergency over outbreak - are poultry exports banned?

The bird flu outbreak in Brazil has been classed as an animal health emergency. (Credit: Getty Images)The bird flu outbreak in Brazil has been classed as an animal health emergency. (Credit: Getty Images)
The bird flu outbreak in Brazil has been classed as an animal health emergency. (Credit: Getty Images) | Getty Images
Brazil, one of the world's largest exporter of chicken meat, declared the emergency after several cases were found in wild birds

Brazil has declared an animal health emergency after several cases of bird flu were found in the country.

The avian flu strain, known as H5N1, has been found in seven birds in the Espirito Santo state. Another case was also found in the state of Rio de Janeiro with all cases being detected in rural areas.

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The state of emergency will stay in place for 180 days. The country's agricultural ministry said that officials will devise a plan and evaluate “national actions related to avian influenza".

Although the numbers are small, the emergency classification will allow the Brazilian government to introduce new measures to stop the spread of the virus.

The Brazilian health ministry confirmed that there were 33 suspected cases of bird flu in humans in Esprito Santo over the weekend. However, all tests came back negative.

It comes as the world deals with an outbreak of the highly-infectious H5N1 virus affecting birds. The 2023 outbreak is currently the worst since the outbreak of October 2021.

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Birds around the world have contracted the virus. The National Trust estimates that between 30,000 and 50,000 wild birds have died from suspected bird flu cases on the Farne Islands in Northumberland.

The spread of the virus has been somewhat limited in its human transmission. Two human cases were recently identified on a poultry farm in England after routine testing of workers undertaken by Defra.

The cases were thought to have been linked to direct contact with the animals and did not stem from human-to-human transmission. Both workers have since tested negative for the virus.

The World Health Organisation is monitoring the continuing outbreak of the H5N1 virus across the world. Experts are looking closely at the situation to ensure it is not mutating into a strain which can spread among humans.

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Will there be restriction on trade from Brazil because of bird flu?

Commercial farms are on high alert in Brazil following the confirmation of wild bird flu cases. The identification of bird flu in commercial farms can happen after cases are found in the wild, with stricter rules and measures likely to be put during the state of emergency.

Brazil is one of the world's biggest exporters of chicken meat. Sales of the product top almost £8billion each year in exports across the world.

Since the confirmation of the cases, shares in Brazilian-based chicken exporter BRF SA, the largest of its kind in the world, have dropped by 0.5%.

However, based on guidelines from the World Organisation for Animal Health, the identification of H5N1 cases in wild birds does not trigger an automatic trade ban. If a case is found on a commercial farm, the normal protocol is for the entire flock to be killed to avoid a larger outbreak.

An identified commercial case may also mean that some governments across the world may put a ban on poultry products from the affected country.

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