With all eyes fixed on the ongoing emergency relief efforts in Japan, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine Bureau rang the alarm on the possibility that influenza A(H5N1) infections could be brought to Taiwan via fowl from Japan and South Korea.
Bureau director Hsu Tien-lai (許天來) said World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) records showed that from January through March 11, H5N1, also known as avian flu, had spread in 22 farms across eight prefectures in Japan and 48 farms across four provinces in South Korea. To date, 1.77 million chickens in Japan and 1.14 million in South Korea have been culled amid attempts to mitigate the outbreak.
While the outbreak in Japan was limited to chickens, in South Korea H5N1 had spread from water fowl to chicken and ducks, Hsu said.
This shows that the virus is highly contagious in all sorts of fowl, Hsu said, calling for preventive measures to be taken by poultry farms in Taiwan.
The bureau said poultry farms should step up animal health inspections and take appropriate measures, such as limiting pass-through of staff and vehicles, decontamination, staff safety protection, maintenance or establishment of measures to prevent wild birds flying in and sample taking.
If fowl show odd symptoms or are suspected of having avian flu, they should immediately be quarantined and reported to local animal disease prevention centers to prevent -further outbreaks, the bureau said.
Bureau officials called on the public to report any known cases of smuggled fowl or fowl-related products from infected areas in South Korea, Japan and Vietnam, another high-risk country. The Statute for Prevention and Control of Infectious Animal Disease (動物傳染病防治條例) stipulates that willful concealment of influenza outbreaks can result in fines of between NT$10,000 and NT$50,000 (US$338 to US$1,692).
Smuggling of interdicted fowl can result in seven years’ imprisonment and fines of up to NT$3 million. Vehicles used for smuggling can also be impounded.