The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and WHO have confirmed that highly pathogenic avian influenza has spread to five countries in South America.

Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela and Chile have reported cases of bird flu, with a total of 25 reported outbreaks. Colombia had 22 outbreaks in various rural areas (backyard) between 19 October and 30 November.

Stunning images show hundreds of pelicans either dead or suffering from the disease-causing H5N1 virus. According to Peruvian media, the pandemic has killed more than 13,000 pelicans.

The rapid progress of migratory birds already suggests that Brazil, as well as countries like Chile and Argentina, could be next.

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Nonetheless, these countries have contingency plans in place to protect at least commercial herds. Argentina and Brazil, as well as Paraguay, Bolivia and Uruguay, have yet to document an outbreak.

In a joint communication, PAHO and WHO recommend Member States to strengthen coordination among sectors involved in alerting and responding to zoonotic disease outbreaks. This means public health officials must take necessary and appropriate measures to contain new pathogens that could threaten public health.

PAHO and WHO have also warned that the number of cases is likely to increase in the coming months, following the current seasonal pattern of the outbreak. They reaffirmed that they will maintain and enhance our security measures.

In addition to those four South American countries, cases were detected this year also affected Canada, Mexico, and the United States, where bird flu has even infected humans.

The top five poultry producers in the Americas continue to be the United States, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia. Brazil is the top exporter, followed by the United States.

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