The Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine on Friday disputed accusations in the media that alleged recent bird flu outbreaks were related to unauthorized inoculation with vaccines illegally imported from China, saying that the vaccine viruses and the viruses affecting local birds are different strains.
A report by online news outlet News and Market earlier this week said that highly pathogenic avian influenza virus H5N2, which is responsible for many of the bird flu cases reported since last month, could be linked to a commercial H5N2-based vaccine developed by a Chinese university.
The report said that unlicensed veterinarians in Taiwan purchased the vaccines online and vaccinated fowl in local farms, thereby introducing the H5N2 viruses into Taiwan.
Bureau director Chang Su-san (張淑賢) said that the Chinese vaccine is based on an Asian strain of the H5N2 viruses, while the H5N2 viruses found in Taiwan are of European origin.
The “H5” hemagglutinin genome sequence of the new strains of H5N2, H5N3 and H5N8 viruses found in the nation this year is a more than 98.8 percent match to the one seen in South Korea, which is assumed to be transmitted into Taiwan by migratory birds, Chang said.
Currently, bird flu vaccination is prohibited in Taiwan to reduce the risk of vaccine viruses recombining with viruses in the environment and mutating into new strains, while bird flu is still rampant in some countries where vaccination is practiced, she said.
Saying that a general immunization against bird flu viruses could not be realized without considerable vaccination coverage, she added that culling remains the most effective epidemic prevention measure, while a general vaccination program is not on the bureau’s agenda.
Unauthorized vaccination is subject to fines of between NT$60,000 and NT$300,000 (US$1,845 and US$9,227) and repeat offenders could be fined up to NT$2.5 million the bureau said.
The bureau yesterday said that 3,500 broiler ducks on a farm in Pingtung County’s Kaoshu Township (高樹) were culled after the ducks were found to be infected with the H5 subtype virus.
No affected products have entered the market, the bureau said.
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