Sat, May 06, 2017 - Page 3 News List

H5N6 avian flu epidemic under control: premier

BATTLE OVER:Efforts to curb the epidemic were ‘a silent war,’ Premier Lin Chuan said before presenting awards to those who had made crucial contributions

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

An outbreak of H5N6 avian influenza has been curbed following more than two months of efforts to contain the epidemic, Premier Lin Chuan (林全) said yesterday alongside Council of Agriculture officials.

The Executive Yuan on Feb. 12 upgraded the Central Emergency Operation Center to a Level 1 facility, with the premier serving as the center’s commander.

Now that the epidemic is under control, Lin said that the center was being closed.

“Since the last infection in Hualien on March 6, no other cases have been reported,” Council of Agriculture Minister Lin Tsung-hsien (林聰賢) said in a report on the government’s reaction to the epidemic.

Lin Tsung-hsien said 41,602 birds infected with H5N6 had been culled during the first four months of this year, while more than 1.2 million birds infected with other H5 flu subtypes had also been culled.

In comparison, in the previous H5 subtype avian flu (H5N2, H5N8, H5N3) epidemic in 2015, more than 4.8 million birds were culled, he said.

He said crucial strategies won “the war against the epidemic.”

After encouraging farmers to report H5N6 cases, the government increased the reimbursement fee from 60 to 80 percent, effective between Feb. 5 and May 31, Lin Tsung-hsien said.

Then a seven-day ban on the transportation and slaughter of poultry from Feb. 17 to Feb. 24 prevented the further spread of H5N6, he said.

Speaking about the “difficult decision,” he said it was enacted amid great public doubt and pressure.

To reduce its impact on the domestic market, the ban did not include chickens raised indoors or disinfected eggs, Lin Tsung-hsien said.

After the ban was lifted, farmers had to submit an examination report before sending birds to slaughterhouses, which prevented those that appeared healthy, but were actually infected from escaping quarantine, he said.

“It was a silent war, but we have passed the test,” Lin Chuan said, expressing his thanks to Council of Agriculture officials.

The premier presented awards to those who had made crucial contributions, including Chang Chi-wei (張智偉), a member of West Bird Society of Taipei who reported the first case of an infected duckling in Hualien.

Asked whether H5N6 had been eradicated in Taiwan, Lin Tsung-hsien said that no expert can give a 100 percent assurance.

Avian flu is usually dormant in the summer, but people still need to be cautious in the fall when the weather turns colder, he said.

The council is encouraging more poultry farmers to adopt indoor facilities to reduce the risk of avian flu, he said.

The council plans to cooperate with the Ministry of Health and Welfare to establish a Center of Avian Flu Prevention and Control, which would coordinate measures in the case of a future outbreak, he said.

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