Ecuador confirms first human bird flu infection in 9-year-old

A volunteer wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as a precaution against the spread of bird flu observes an injured rescued bird at a temporary shelter in Ahmedabad on January 13, 2021. (SAM PANTHAKY / AFP)

QUITO — Ecuador reported its first case of human transmission of bird flu in a 9-year-old girl, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday, marking a rare case of human infection a month after the country declared an animal health emergency.

Human illness from bird flu infections have ranged from no symptoms to mild illness to severe disease resulting in death, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which advised that spread between humans is very rare.

It is presumed that the infection occurred through direct contact with birds that carried the virus

Bird flu wiped out tens of millions of birds last year across the United States, which reported a first human case last April. Many of the birds were slaughtered to stop the disease from spreading.

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Ecuador's Health Ministry said humans and animals in the area where the child was infected in the central province of Bolivar were being closely monitored for transmission.

It did not report on the girl's condition.

"It is presumed that the infection occurred through direct contact with birds that carried the virus," the ministry added. "So far no other cases have been reported in humans."

Ecuador declared an animal health emergency in late November and an epidemiological alert in December after an outbreak had been detected in the provinces of Cotopaxi and Bolivar, where thousands of birds were slaughtered to contain the disease.

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The government assured that the consumption of eggs and chicken meat does not represent a risk to human health. It recommended strengthening "biosecurity" measures and seeking medical help in case of symptoms related to influenza.

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