Thu, Oct 27, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Avian flu tests give local bird farm the all-clear

ACCUSATION The claim by a British agency that birds from Taiwan infected a parrot that arrived in the UK looked shaky after local tests exonerated the source

By Jenny Chou  /  STAFF REPORTERS

A boy admires birds at a pet store in Taipei yesterday.

PHOTO: SAM YEH, AFP

Tests for the H5N1 bird flu virus on a Taiwanese farm, birds from which were alleged by a British official to have infected a parrot that reached the UK, have proved negative.

Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine Bureau director-general Watson Sung (宋華聰) said that 40 cloaca and larynx samples taken from the farm showed that the birds there were perfectly healthy.

When asked by reporters which birds were sampled and how many birds the farm had, Sung said more details could not be revealed in the interests of the farm's owner.

A parrot from Suriname arrived in Britain on Sept. 16 that was quarantined and killed when it was found to be carrying the H5N1 strain of bird flu.

Debby Reynolds, chief veterinary officer with Britain's Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) then suggested that birds from Taiwan had been responsible for infecting the parrot.

Sung said that, "I strongly object to Britain's accusation that the parrot from Suriname was infected by birds from Taiwan. By not providing Taiwan with relevant details and being ambiguous in statements to the media, the British government has tarnished Taiwan's image. What they have done is very irresponsible."

Sung said that Taiwan's representative in Britain, Lin Hsin-yi (林俊義), had asked for details from DEFRA regarding the number of birds that had been imported from Taiwan, what kinds of birds they were and which flight they were on, but had received no response.

"If the British government had any questions they should have asked us. They shouldn't have not given us a response. That was very irresponsible," he said, adding that all the birds from Taiwan had met all of the British regulations in terms of health checks and tests.

Sung also announced in a meeting earlier yesterday morning that sampling for H5N1 among migratory birds will be taken in 10 wetland areas, including Kaohsiung, Pingtung, Changhua and Taichung, with 3,000 samples to be collected annually.

However, Sung said that in the event that the H5N1 virus is found in any of the samples, no migratory birds would be culled.

"No other country has done so, either," he said.

In the event that samples from migratory birds test positive for H5N1, all bird and chicken farms within a 3km radius would be monitored.

When reporters asked why migratory birds would not be culled, Sung said that it would be impossible to tell which birds were infected with the H5N1 virus.

Meanwhile, Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) yesterday instructed the Department of Health to establish a Bird Flu Relief Center to stand by in case an outbreak occurs.

"The center will provide updates on the latest developments and information on the disease so that the public will not be inconvenienced or panicked by wrong information or rumor," he said.

Hsieh also said the center will distribute booklets containing advice on how the public should prepare for or respond to an outbreak.

"Bird flu is a universal problem. We need to let the public know what is really going on, and what is not, or else misleading information will result in disruption," he said.

also see story:

Taiwan to share expertise in preventing bird flu: Lu

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