Mexico's poultry farmers slaughtered 22.3 million birds between June and August to contain an outbreak of avian flu, and they immunized 140 million other birds, the National Food Health, Safety and Quality Service, or Senasica, said.

The final tally of birds destroyed to prevent the spread of the AH7N3 avian influenza virus has been completed, the Senasica said.

The avian flu outbreak started in June at poultry farms in the Los Altos region of the western state of Jalisco.

No new avian flu cases have been reported in the past three weeks and affected farms are being restocked with "flocks of between 4.5 (million) and 5 million birds each month," Senasica director Enrique Sanchez said.

The restocking of farms is expected to boost egg production to an average of 2,700 tons daily, with output rising gradually as new hens are added, Sanchez said.

Bird populations should be back to the pre-emergency level by November, the Senasica director said.

A total of 22.3 million birds were destroyed between June 19 and Aug. 31, of which 10.9 million were certified for slaughter by Senasica, while the rest were killed before health officials were notified of the flu outbreak, Sanchez said.

"Some others were eliminated in a preventive manner by poultry farmers near where the outbreak started to prevent infections on their farms," the Senasica director said.

The largest losses of birds occurred at farms in the city of Tepatitlan, with 13.6 million, and in San Juan de los Lagos, where 8.3 million birds were lost, Sanchez said.

The measures taken to control the spread of AH7N3 helped prevent larger losses and irreparable damage to Mexico's poultry industry, the Senasica director said.

Health officials are now working to restock the poultry farms affected by the outbreak, as well as to restore supplies of poultry products on the market.

A total of 12,343 health certificates have been issued so far to help speed the flow of poultry products to consumers.

The government also authorized the importation of 2,000 tons of eggs from the United States and is working to import eggs from Costa Rica, Chile and Colombia.

The avian influenza epidemic produced total losses of some $350 million, officials said recently.

The AH7N3 avian influenza virus does not pose a danger to people consuming meat or eggs.

Mexico, according to National Poultry Producers Association figures, produces nearly 2.5 million tons of eggs and 1.2 million tons of meat annually. 

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