Mexico City: Some 4.9 million birds have died since the outbreak of bird flu started five weeks ago at farms in the western Mexican state of Jalisco, officials said.

All of the birds are hens that either died from the illness or were destroyed to prevent the spread of the H7N3 virus, the National Food Health, Safety and Quality Service, or Senasica, said.

Some 16.5 million birds, of which 9.3 million are close to or in the area where the flu outbreak occurred, are being monitored because they face a higher risk of getting the illness, the Senasica said.

Inspectors have examined 358 farms, with the virus detected at 34 farms, 125 farms testing negative and the rest still under evaluation.

A quarantine remains in effect at farms in the danger zone, with shipments of hens banned to prevent spreading the disease, said authorities.

"As of now, the presence of the virus has only been detected in egg-laying hens," the Senasica said, adding that the first shipment of "around 15 million vaccine doses for H7N3 bird flu" should arrive in Jalisco Friday.

The vaccine, which is being produced by the National Veterinary Biological Production Agency with assistance from three private pharmaceutical companies, will be distributed to poultry farmers able to start the immunization campaign.

Bird flu does not pose a risk to people consuming meat or eggs, and the measures being taken are designed to protect the poultry industry, the Senasica said.Mexico, according to National Poultry Producers Association figures, produces nearly 2.5 million tonnes of eggs and 1.2 million tonnes of meat annually.

(Agencies)

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