Argentina free from avian flu but concerns remain in Scandinavia

Argentina is free of cases of avian flu after the last of 18 outbreaks at commercial farms came to an end, according to the country’s agricultural secretary.

Argentina’s first case of avian flu in commercial poultry was detected in February, pausing poultry exports for a month. 

Shipments restarted in March after the Argentine government reached agreements with importing countries.

State health agency SENASA ruled Argentina was avian flu-free in a document submitted to the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH), Agriculture Secretary Juan Jose Bahillo said in a statement.

Last year, Argentina brought in around $384 million from exporting some 227,247 metric tons of poultry meat, according to government data.

Despite the respite for Argentina, avian flu remains a threat. Only last week, the Finnish food authority said it has ordered 50,000 farmed mink and foxes to be culled at three fur farms hit by bird flu infections as mink can host the virus, increasing the chance of it mutating and affecting humans.

Indeed, Finland and Norway are facing record outbreaks of the H5N1 virus strain this year. The virus has killed thousands of seagulls and other bird species, put livestock at risk and restricted travel in some areas.

“Mink is an especially problematic species when it comes to avian influenza infections,” the authority said, as it can be an effective intermediate host for bird flu, enabling the virus to mutate more effectively into a form that will infect humans.

This year, avian influenza, commonly called bird flu, was found at 20 fur farms in Finland as of the end of July, with samples from another four farms currently being analysed, according to the food authority.

It said it was preparing further cull orders this week.