Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva told national radio on Monday that the country was preparing for a possible bird flu outbreak, as an awareness campaign about the disease launched on Friday got into full swing.
On his weekly radio show "Coffee with the President," Lula encouraged listeners to keep consuming poultry during a discussion on his decision to publicly eat chicken last week. His comments echoed the key messages of the National Bird Flu Prevention Plan.
"What we did was to send a signal to Brazilian society that we do not have bird flu here," Lula said, adding that because of Brazil's geographical position, it would be difficult for the disease to reach the country.
"Often a topic causes alarm before people have taken the trouble to inform themselves correctly of the risks," Lula said, adding that he was doing what he could to reduce fear in society.
He added that the ministries of health and agriculture had adequate capacity for vaccine production and that the nation had begun a strict air and sea port inspection regime.
Under the bird flu prevention plan, Brazil will also modernize its network of laboratories.
Brazil is the world's third largest poultry producer and biggest exporter. The industry accounts for around 4 million jobs there.
The deadly form of bird flu, the H5N1 strain, has killed more than 100 people since it reappeared in 2003, most of whom had worked closely with farm birds.
The disease has killed birds in Africa, Asia and Europe, and infected people in Africa and Asia.
While it can be spread from bird to human and is highly contagious in birds, so far there is no evidence that the disease can spread from person to person.