Turkeys hang in a slaughterhouse in Calera (Chile), in a file image. Roberto Candia (AP)
A 53-year-old man who arrived at a health center with pneumonia has been confirmed by the Chilean Ministry of Health as the first human infected with bird flu in the South American country.
Resident of a coastal city in the north of the country, the patient arrived at the hospital with a picture of severe acute respiratory infection, reported the Minister of Health, Ximena Aguilera, for which the tests stipulated by the protocol and the Institute of Health were performed. Pública (ISP) later confirmed that he was infected with the H5N1 virus.
The patient was admitted to the hospital in complete isolation, although Aguilera assured that "there has been no person-to-person transmission" and "it does not represent a risk of contagion for the rest of the staff."
There is no clarity regarding the source of contagion, but the epidemiology teams of the Ministry of Health are working to find out.
Minister Aguilera, however, recalled that the avian influenza virus is transmitted by contact with sick animals and that, normally, they have died as a result of this disease.
The public health specialist recalled that the H5N1 virus "has increasingly affected marine mammals throughout the continent, such as sea lions, which are sometimes found by people on the beach."
Aguilera, who assured that the patient is stable within its severity, remarked that "at the present time, there is no person-to-person transmission of this avian influenza picture."
She therefore called for reinforcing prevention measures.
In case of finding deceased birds or animals, he assured, you should not approach them, touch them or move them, but contact the authorities of the Livestock Agricultural Service, SAG, in the case of birds, or the National Fisheries Service, Sernapesca , in the case of marine animals.
The Chilean health authority said that the incubation period of the virus – from the time the person is infected until they present symptoms – is between five to seven days, but that it “quickly evolves to pneumonia”.
He also reported that the infected patient in northern Chile is stable within its severity.
On March 13, the Ministry of Agriculture reported the first case of avian influenza in the white meat industry and stated that "it does not affect consumption at all."
The minister of the portfolio, Esteban Valenzuela, assured then that "complying with the highest standards, with the seriousness of Chile, in the commitment with the OMSA (World Organization for Animal Health)", they proceeded to close the export.
"We are confident that a month from now, after the 28 days in which there are protocols regarding observing the farms, we can gradually recover the capacity" for poultry exports, Valenzuela assured in the middle of the month.
The local press has reported what happened in certain areas, such as the Carlos Anwandter natural sanctuary in the Los Ríos region, whose capital is Valdivia (about 850 kilometers south of Santiago de Chile).
According to expert calculations, up to 15% of the swan population in this national park could die due to a focus of avian influenza.
The SAG has already incinerated 136 copies to prevent the spread.