Brazil has declared an official state of animal health emergency throughout its territory after several cases of avian influenza (bird flu) were confirmed.

The country’s minister for agriculture, Carlos Favaro, declared a state of zoosanitary emergency due to cases of the H5N1 strain of the virus in wild birds.

The state of emergency will be in place for 180 days, and is described as a measure “to prevent the disease from reaching subsistence and commercial poultry production, as well as to preserve fauna and human health”.

Favaro said that the declaration of the state of emergency makes it possible to mobilise funds to control the disease, and to co-ordinate efforts with other government departments, local governments at various levels, and non-governmental organisations.

“This whole process is to ensure the workforce, logistics, financial resources and technological materials necessary to carry out emergency actions aimed at preventing the spread of the disease [are available],” Favaro said.

On Monday (May 22), Brazil’s federal laboratory for agricultural defence, one of the reference laboratories used by the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), confirmed three new cases of avian influenza H5N1 in the state of Espirito Santo on the east coast of the country, just to the north of Rio De Janeiro.

That brought to eight the total number of wild bird cases of bird flu in Brazil in recent days, with seven cases confirmed in Espirito Santo and one in the state of Rio De Janeiro.

The country’s agriculture ministry is warning the population not to collect sick or dead birds they find, and to alert the nearest veterinary service.

The emergency order also extends, for an indefinite period, a suspension on exhibitions, tournaments, fairs and other events where birds might be kept in close proximity. This applies to all birds kept in captivity.

The authorities in Brazil have established an emergency operations centre for coordinating, planning, evaluating, and controlling the response to bird flu.