Some 260,000 poultry have been euthanised or killed in recent days in Argentina as part of an outbreak of avian influenza, a source at the National Agri-Food Health and Quality Service (Senasa) said on Thursday.
The animals, mostly chickens, died as a result of the disease itself or were slaughtered by their owners, the source told AFP.
Of the total, 220,000 deaths occurred on a farm in the southern province of Río Negro, 10,000 on a farm in Neuquén and 30,000 between two production sites in the city of Mar del Plata, located in Buenos Aires Province.
According to the latest official report from Senasa health body on Thursday, of the 200 notifications received for suspected cases, 40 have been confirmed positive.
It is the first time since the emergence of avian influenza in the world 20 years ago that the disease has reached Argentina and it is presumed that it was through migratory birds, the source said.
At a meeting in Buenos Aires on Thursday, Southern Hemisphere nations agreed to create a technical commission to consult on highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). The group will draw up a joint response to the presence of the virus and aspects of the commercial exchange of poultry products, Senasa said in a statement.
The meeting was attended by veterinary professionals from Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.
After the first case was detected in a production establishment on March 1, Argentina suspended the export of poultry products because it temporarily lost its disease-free status. Production for domestic consumption, however, remained normal because the disease is not transmitted to humans through the consumption of poultry meat and eggs, it said.
Sales of Argentine poultry products abroad represent some US$330 million a year, with China as the main destination for the export.