A human was infected with bird flu in Ecuador. “The first case of influenza A-H5 was confirmed in a nine-year-old girl in the province of Bolivar,” in the heart of the Andes, the health ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
Ecuador announced a 90-day health emergency on November 30 after an outbreak of bird flu, also known as avian influenza, was detected in chicken farms in the Andean province of Cotopaxi, bordering Bolivar. The government ordered the killing of 180,000 chickens then.
The country’s health ministry said the human infection is believed to have been transmitted through direct contact with birds carrying the virus. It added that “so far, no other human cases have been reported.” Animals and humans in the area where the child was infected are being closely monitored.
It’s not known what the condition of the girl is. Human illness from bird flu has fluctuated from mild illness to severe disease resulting in death, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Bird flu is primarily a disease affecting birds but can also infect humans and other animals who come in contact with infected birds or their faeces. The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies specific subtypes of bird flu, including the H5N1 and H7N9 subtypes, as highly pathogenic and potentially fatal in humans.
Whenever bird flu is detected at a farm, the only solution governments have is to destroy all animals in the area, which has resulted in the killing of millions of chickens, ducks, turkeys and other birds worldwide.
The chicken farming sector in Ecuador is a significant contributor to the country’s economy, with an estimated 263 million chickens killed for food each year and 16 million laying hens.
Ecuadorian authorities have encouraged the citizens to maintain a high level of personal hygiene and avoid contact with sick or dead birds.