Argentina has automatically suspended all poultry exports after confirming its first positive case of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), or bird flu, in industrial birds at a broiler farm in the southern province of Río Negro.
The news, confirmed by health officials from the National Agri-Food Health and Quality Service (Senasa) body late Tuesday, means that the country temporarily loses its disease-free status and automatically suspends the export of poultry products, in compliance with international standards.
This is the first case detected at a broiler chicken farm in the country, Agriculture, Livestock & Fisheries Minister Juan José Bahillo said in a post on Twitter.
However, poultry production for consumption within Argentina will continue normally, government officials said, as HPAI is not transmitted through the consumption of poultry meat and eggs.
Industrial farms that usually export their products will be able to sell their products on the domestic market while the international suspension persists.
"Our poultry products continue to be safe for Argentines. The suspension of exports responds to the requirements of international regulations,” said Bahillo, who said containment measures are being taken to avoid the spread of the virus.
Confirmation of the case, coming at a time of economic crisis and runaway inflation, is another blow to President Alberto Fernández’s government. Argentina exported more than US$380 million in poultry products last year to more than 56 countries, though most national production is sold on the domestic market.
Health and sanitary officials in Argentina have been closely watching the progression of bird flu, which is spreading across South America. Their biggest concern has been the potential for the virus to reach industrial farms and lead to the halting of exports.
To date, Senasa officials have confirmed at least 25 cases nationwide, with 21 in backyard birds and three in wild birds (the last case being at the broiler farm in Río Negro).
Cases have been spread across the country, with 13 of the confirmed cases in Córdoba, four in Buenos Aires Province, two in Río Negro, two in Santa Fe, one in Jujuy, one in Neuquén, one in San Luis and one in Salta.
The commercial positive case came from a broiler chicken farm located in the town of Mainque, Río Negro Province, an area of “low poultry density,” according to officials.
Senasa has ordered the farm’s bosses to comply with the corresponding containment measures detailed in the Avian Influenza Contingency Manual, in order to avoid the spread of the disease in other establishments producing poultry destined to the commercial circuit.
At the same time, following international protocols, Senasa officials will officially communicate the news to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
Senasa authorities, professionals and technicians are already working to achieve the prompt reinstatement of the country's disease-free status and the resumption of poultry exports, the body said in a statement.