Ricardo de Melo Martins, professor of medicine at the University of BrasÀlia (UnB), in the Brazilian capital, recommends that the Brazilian Bird Flu Containment Plan be fully implemented after Carnaval in order to prevent the disease from entering the country.
"Things are calm now. If bird flu arrives, it will be in the winter, during the months of July and August." That is why he thinks it is so important to act right away.
Martins, who contributed to the plan as an outside expert, said that greater intensity is needed in getting information out to the population and the press.
"The distribution of pamphlets to tourists and the installation of barriers in ports and airports can also help keep the disease from entering Brazil," he observed.
According to the professor, the country has a natural "safety shield" against the disease. The migratory birds potentially infected by the H5N1 virus come from Asia and Europe and first pass through North America. Most of them will die before arriving in Brazilian territory.
Nevertheless, the Ministry of Agriculture has installed surveillance posts in the regions where migratory birds usually enter the country, and the Ministry of Health has transferred US$ 1.451 million (3.1 million reais) to the Butantã Institute to manufacture vaccines against the virus.
Bird flu is a severely contagious disease transmitted by one of the most virulent subtypes of the influenza virus, the H5N1. 83 of the 152 human victims of the disease have already died.
The incidence has been greatest in Asia. Up to now there has been no evidence of transmission among humans. Transmission has been limited to avian vectors, among birds and from birds to humans.