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JAN. 17, 2023

“Let’s Avoid Avian Influenza”: Government reinforces campaign with special appeal to tourists who go to coastal areas during vacations

The appeal to the public to strengthen prevention measures against cases of avian influenza currently extends from the coast of Arica and Parinacota to the Maule Region. How? By calling SAG on 223451100 to report dead birds or those showing signs of contagion (lack of coordination, ruffled feathers, difficult breathing). And most importantly, do not touch, move or handle them, as they could be a possible positive case of avian influenza.  

Under the slogan “Let’s Avoid Avian Influenza,” (Evitemos la Influenza Aviar), Agriculture Minister Esteban Valenzuela and Health Minister Ximena Aguilera have given recommendations on how to proceed if you find sick or dead wild birds on beaches or coastal areas during the holiday season. They emphasized the need to avoid all type of contact and immediately alert the Agricultural and Livestock Service (SAG). 

Agriculture Minister Esteban Valenzuela emphasized the work that is being carried out throughout the country. “We have established technical working groups where the main stakeholders in this emergency are represented, such as delegations, regional governments, port authorities and, of course, the Agriculture Ministry and SAG, an institution that is playing an essential role, as well as the Health Ministry, due to the probability that this disease will also infect people,” the agriculture minister explained. 

Health Minister Ximena Aguilera highlighted the coordination that has taken place with the Agriculture Ministry, stating that they are working together within a “comprehensive framework in which human and animal health are being handled as part of a broader context, as avian influenza is a zoonotic disease. Although no humans have been affected in our country to date, there is a risk to people who come into contact with infected birds. For this reason, our work with the Agriculture Ministry is fundamental in order to inform the population and educate them,” Minister Aguilera stated. 

When asked about the symptoms of avian influenza in people, she explained that “it causes serious infection in humans. This is a highly pathogenic virus; its symptoms are general malaise and high fever, and it can affect the respiratory system (…) These indications are fortunately treatable. They are treated with antivirals that we have available, which is why alerting us is very important.” 

Minister Valenzuela, meanwhile, emphasized that to date in Chile there have been no cases of infection among backyard poultry or in industrial facilities. However, he remarked that “we must be responsible, as there is always the possibility that the virus will spread and affect part of the poultry industry. In the case of small-scale family farming, our appeal is to maximize biosecurity measures, prevent your birds from coming into contact with wild birds and immediately report sick or dead birds to SAG.” He added that the consumption of poultry products such as meat and eggs is safe. 

Finally, Carlos Orellana, head of the Livestock Protection Division at SAG, called on the public to report to the service birds that are found with “erratic behavior. For example, if they are alone in unusual places or if they are wandering about. These characteristics are an alert that make us think that we could be facing a possible positive case of avian influenza. Faced with this situation, we ask people not to touch them, not to move them and not to handle them, and to call SAG immediately to prevent the spread of the disease.” 

The disease arrived in Chile in early December 2022, carried by migratory birds from the northern hemisphere. It has only been detected in wild aquatic birds in our country, between the regions of Arica and Parinacota and Maule, with the exception of the Metropolitan Region. There have been no cases among poultry or in industrial farms. 

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