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Many countries, from the US and the UK to France and Japan, experienced record losses of poultry during bird flu outbreaks last year.

The disease, which experts say is spread by migratory birds, has reached South American countries such as Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia for the first time.

The World Organization for Animal Health recently announced that Guatemala had an outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza in wild birds in the eastern part of the country. The deadly virus has been found in 11 wild brown pelicans.

Experts say the bird flu, commonly referred to as bird flu, has reached new corners of the world, making it endemic for the first time in some wild birds that have transmitted the virus to poultry.

Should people be concerned about infection?

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director of the World Health Organization (WHO), said the risk to humans is low. As a precautionary measure, it is recommended not to touch dead or sick wild animals.

From early 2003 to 25 November 2022, according to WHO, 868 people from 21 countries have been infected with H5N1 avian influenza, a strain of the virus that circulates around the world. Of these cases, 457, or about 53 percent, ended in death.

Last month, WHO reported the first known case of H5 avian influenza virus infection in Latin America and the Caribbean in a nine-year-old girl in rural Ecuador.

The organization said in a January 18 statement that a child who had contact with poultry in their backyard was taken to the hospital.

The WHO has stated that disease in humans is usually the result of direct or indirect contact with infected live or dead birds or contaminated environments.

Which countries have bird flu?

Since October 2021, at least 60 countries have killed poultry in response to bird flu outbreaks, according to data provided to Reuters news agency by the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health. The intergovernmental panel said affected countries include India, Taiwan, Nepal, Peru, Czech Republic, Romania and Niger.

What birds can be infected?

Experts say wild birds, including waterfowl like ducks, can carry avian flu viruses without looking sick and can easily pass it on to poultry like chickens and turkeys.

Can other species be infected?

Officials say mammals such as bears, seals, foxes and skunks have contracted the H5N1 bird flu.

More recently, a 250kg sea lion was found on a northern beach in Chile with breathing problems. The country’s first case of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) was detected in a marine mammal. Cases of sea lions have also been seen in the US and Peru.

What happens to an infected bird?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a highly pathogenic avian flu, such as the strain circulating around the world, typically causes disease that affects multiple internal organs within 48 hours, leading to a 90 percent mortality rate, for example, in chickens. .

If a bird in a flock has avian influenza, farmers often cull the whole bird to prevent the spread of the highly contagious virus.

How does bird flu affect food safety?

As part of government response plans, infected birds are being removed from food. In addition, the USDA notes that bird flu is not transmitted by eating properly cooked poultry and eggs.

How did the epidemic become so serious?

Disease experts point out that the ongoing global epidemic of H5N1 avian influenza dates back to 1996, when the H5 virus was first detected in China’s Guangdong province.

John Clifford, a former USDA chief veterinarian, argues that ducks in Asia can adapt over time and carry the virus without dying.

Clifford, who is a veterinary trade policy adviser to the U.S. Poultry and Egg Export Council, an industry group, says the virus then made its way into breeding areas and migration routes around the world.

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