Avian flu outbreak isolated in Mexican egg-laying region

An H7N3 avian influenza outbreak in Mexico has been brought under control because the virus was quickly identified and a successful vaccine was used to halt the disease.

The outbreak, which occurred in the Los Altos region of the state of Jalisco, was devastating to the local commercial egg sector, which is one of Mexico's largest, according to ThePoultrySite.com.

Jalisco state produces 55 percent of Mexican eggs and the Los Altos region contains approximately 60 million egg-laying chickens. Official statistics show that 22 million laying hens were lost as a result of the outbreak, which was last isolated more than 40 days ago.

The virus's rapid identification and the production of a successful vaccine demonstrated a high level of cooperation between the government, industry and academics. The cooperation was credited with quickly controlling the spread of the illness.

A 2006 low pathogenic H7N3 virus identified in a migratory duck by the National Autonomous University of Mexico became the seed virus for producing a successful vaccine. The duck was found far from Jalisco state as part of a research project, ThePoultrySite.com reports.

According to Dr. Juan Antonio Montan, the viruses were unrelated and it took countless hours to develop a vaccine. Once the seed virus was ready, however, four laboratories were used to produce it - one owned by the government and three that were privately owned. Within one month of receiving the seed vaccine, the labs had produced enough finished vaccine to begin giving it to the egg-laying hens. Nearly 90 million doses were produced in the first lot.

Thorough monitoring of Jalisco, as well as the rest of Mexico, for H7N3 continues, but the quick response appears to have made certain that the illness never left the Los Altos region.