Brazil and Neighbors Get UN Money to Monitor Birds Flying South

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) signed a US$ 500,000 agreement with the countries of the Mercosur, the economic bloc that includes Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, to proceed with the work, started last year, aimed at precocious detection of avian flu.

In February 2005, after a meeting in Brazilian capital Brasí­lia, the Fund had already invested US$ 500,000 to start the emergency assistance program, due to the occurrence of avian flu in Africa and Asia.

The funds turned to the Mercosur are going to improve the quality of information and to prepare laboratories in Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina for diagnosis.

One of the main targets is the birds that arrive at different seasons of the year, in migratory cycles, according to the director general of the FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, José Graziano.

Graziano said that the organization promotes this support "considering that there are 5 billion birds on the continent and that it is the world’s largest producer of white birds – and that an outburst in any of the countries would bring considerable economic losses, mainly to the smaller countries".

Brazil, he added, "depends a lot on export of poultry and eggs because this is a segment that generates plenty of income and jobs."

Graziano reminded that "three years after the first bout of avian flu, which happened in Asia, 250 million birds that were contaminated or suspect of being contaminated were sacrificed. There was also the death of 103 people who were victims of the disease."

He made it clear that no death was caused by the ingestion of eggs or meat from these birds. "The deaths were caused by contact with the infected birds mainly the wild migratory kind. People don’t spread avian flu, the same way a cold can be passed from one person to another. Avian flu is classified as a zoonosis (disease passed from an animal) and not a pandemic. And the virus of the disease dies at a relatively low temperature: that of a hot cup of coffee."

September is a critical month, according to Graziano, because that’s when the birds migrate to South America fleeing colder regions.

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