Brazil has declared a 180-day state of animal health emergency in response to its first-ever detection of the H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza virus in wild birds.

Brazil — the world’s largest chicken meat exporter with $9.7 billion in sales by 2022 — has so far confirmed eight cases of H5N1 in wild birds, including seven in the state of Espirito Santo and one in the state of Rio de Janeiro.

The Agriculture Ministry said on Monday it had created an emergency operations center to coordinate, plan and evaluate “national measures related to bird flu.”

H5N1 infection in wild birds does not trigger a trade ban, based on guidelines from the World Organization for Animal Health. However, a case of bird flu on a farm usually results in the entire flock being killed and can trigger trade restrictions from importing countries.

Although Brazil’s main meat-producing states are in the south, the government is on alert following the confirmed cases, as bird flu in wild birds has been followed by transmission to commercial flocks in some countries.

Shares in Brazil-based BRF SA, the world’s biggest chicken exporter, rose 3.6% before the government’s announcement, but ended the day 0.5% lower.

Over the weekend, the health ministry said samples from 33 suspected human bird flu cases in Espirito Santo – where Brazil confirmed the first cases in wild birds last week – all came back negative.

With Reuters