The ban on poultry imports from Japan has remained in force since January last year, a Council of Agriculture official in charge of animal quarantine and inspection affairs said yesterday.
The official made the remarks after the Japanese government announced over the weekend that bird flu has been detected in chickens at a farm in northeastern Japan and that restrictions have been imposed on shipments of poultry and eggs from the area.
"We have enforced a ban on Japanese poultry imports since H5N1 bird flu infections were confirmed in that country in January 2004," the official said, adding that the ban has not once been lifted since that time.
Amid reports of new bird flu infections in Japan, the council will heighten its alert and step up inspection and quarantine measures to avert any avian flu-infected poultry from entering the country, the official said.
The Japanese government said Sunday that more than 800 chickens at a farm in Mitsukaido City in Ibaraki Prefecture, located just northeast of Tokyo, have died since April, and recent tests on some found they were infected with the H5N2 strain of bird flu.
H5N2 is regarded as less dangerous strain of the bird flu virus compared to the H5N1 strain, which has led to the death and slaughter of tens of millions of birds across Asia since late 2003. The H5N1 strain has also crossed over to humans, killing 38 people in Vietnam, 12 in Thailand and four in Cambodia over the past couple of years.