On Friday, December 2, Venezuelan Minister for Science and Technology Gabriela Jiménez reported the detection of the AH5N1 avian influenza virus in pelicans in the eastern Venezuelan state of Anzoátegui.
“The Bolivarian Government of Venezuela reports the detection of the Avian Influenza AH5N1 virus in pelicans in the northern coastal region of Anzoátegui state,” the minister wrote on social media.
She announced that “preventive measures and health alerts are being developed” in response to this situation.
La influenza aviar es una enfermedad viral contagiosa que afecta a las aves domésticas y silvestres. Los equipos técnicos se encuentran realizando las labores de seguimiento y vigilancia.
Existen reportes semejantes de pelicanos contagiados en otros países del continente.
— Gabriela Jiménez (@Gabrielasjr) December 2, 2022
“Avian influenza is a contagious viral disease that affects domestic and wild birds,” Minister Jiménez added. “Technical teams are carrying out monitoring and surveillance. There are similar reports of infected pelicans in other countries of the continent.”
A public health alert has been declared for 90 days in the states of Anzoátegui, Miranda, Nueva Esparta, Sucre and La Guaira due to the detection of the avian influenza virus in pelicans.
Through a joint statement, the Ministry of Productive Agriculture and Lands and the Ministry of Science and Technology announced a series of measures to mitigate contagion risks.
The regulations include a quarantine in the states where the public health alert has been declared, prohibition of transport of live birds and fertile eggs in some municipalities, surveillance of backyard and commercial poultry farming, and slaughter of AH5N1-positive poultry or those which carry a risk for the transmission of the virus.
Pelican deaths continue in Anzoátegui
The mayor of the Peñalver municipality in Anzoátegui state, Carlos Marcano, confirmed the discovery of about 200 dead pelicans in less than a month in the surroundings of the Puerto Píritu Lagoon.
He reported that the bodies of the coastal marine bird, whose scientific name is Pelicanus occidentalis, are collected and then incinerated with recommendations of the Ministry of Ecosocialism (MINEC), National Institute of Comprehensive Agricultural Health (INSAI) and the National Institute of Parks (INPARQUES).
Gilberto Borges, veterinarian and member of Fundación Avista, who has participated in the investigations since the phenomenon began, explained that a multidisciplinary team has been in the area where the pelican deaths have been reported.
He stated that 34 other species of birds live in the same area as the pelicans, but they are apparently in good health and have not been affected by the avian influenza virus.
Borges added that officials and environmentalists are making constant rounds. They have also given instructions on biosecurity measures and the handling of dead birds to both fishers and the general population.
He warned that there is a zoonotic risk in the area, urging people to avoid contact with dead birds or birds presenting flu symptoms and to leave the area and report the authorities if they notice such birds.
The quarantine ordered in the joint resolution of the Ministry of Productive Agriculture and Lands and the Ministry of Science and Technology only refers to birds. Therefore, the transport of domestic birds is prohibited. However, Borges added that people should notify the authorities in the case of any symptom.
He clarified that the alert has been extended to neighboring states because pelicans are migratory birds.
Fundación Avista has warned that highly pathogenic avian influenza can destroy the poultry industry, causing significant economic losses due to its rapid spread. Some strains can also infect humans, which is why it is considered a threat to public health.
The foundation has recommended people avoid contact with wild birds, especially pelicans, and direct or indirect contact with surfaces with bird feces, which has a high-risk factor for contagion. If anyone observes a bird—wild or domestic—with symptoms of disorientation, blindness, paralysis, strange movements or inability to fly, they should urgently contact INSAI, Civil Protection, INPARQUES, the Ministry of Environment or the Ministry of Health. Anyone with poultry in their home who is observing any of these symptoms in domestic birds should also immediately inform the aforementioned authorities.
Translation: Orinoco Tribune