Fears that the H5N8 and H5N2 avian influenza viruses that have hit waterfowl farms might spread intensified yesterday after the Council of Agriculture (COA) confirmed the first case of terrestrial bird deaths caused by the highly pathogenic H5 subtype.
Samples taken from a Greater Tainan-based broiler chicken farm, which has about 17,000 chickens, tested positive for the virus.
The Greater Tainan Government will finish exterminating all remaining chickens on the farm by this morning, in compliance with the “deployment in advance” rule stipulated by an emergency response team assembled by the council, which set the threshold for extermination at facilities with a fatality rate of 20 percent or above within 48 hours, Council Minister Chen Bao-ji (陳保基) told a press conference in Taipei.
He said the fatality rate at the Tainan site rose from about 12 percent on Tuesday to 24 percent yesterday, adding that the complete genome sequence of the virus in question would be confirmed today.
National Chung Hsing University professor of veterinary medicine Happy Hsieh (謝快樂) said that, judging from the speed at which the virus spread, it is likely that the H5 subtype found in Tainan will lead to the newfound H5N8 or H5N2 strain.
He warned of the possibility of widespread outbreaks among broiler chickens, saying that the viral strain that killed the poultry poses a much graver threat to terrestrial birds.
Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times
“Highly pathogenic avian flu strains will have a greater impact on terrestrial birds [than waterfowl], especially for those raised in facilities that adopt open farming with insulated evaporative cooling systems, because infected chickens trample on their virus-infused manure, turning it into fine particles that is transmitted in the air. As a result, the entire flock is infected and killed within a very short period of time,” he said.
The council yesterday stepped up its disease control efforts, saying it would dispatch veterinarians to farms and slaughterhouses to monitor fowls’ health conditions and issue health certificates before they can be killed and sold.
The certificates are valid for three days and butchering should be carried out no later than the deadline, Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine Director-General Chang Su-san (張淑賢) said.
The disease control measure is scheduled to be implemented on Sunday and will last until the situation is under control, she said.
Citing the Statute for Prevention and Control of Infectious Animal Disease (動物傳染病防治條例), Chang said facilities that butcher poultry in private can be fined between NT$30,000 and NT$150,000 (US$940 and US$4,700) if confirmed cases of avian flu are found on site. They will also have to cease operations for 24 hours to undergo thorough disinfection.
Responding to reports of carcasses of geese that allegedly died from the bird flu being discarded in public areas, including one case in which hundreds of dead geese were scattered along the Yunlin Irrigation Canal, Chen condemned the perpetrators, calling their behavior “disgraceful,” as it risks exacerbating the outbreaks.
Under the animal disease act, those who do not hand dead animals to rendering plants, thereby causing diseases to spread, can face a maximum penalty of NT$1 million, Chen said.
Meanwhile, the council lifted the ban on slaughtering waterfowl at noon yesterday.
Asked why the council has not extended the two-and-a-half-day stoppage as the avian flu continues to spread, Chang said: “Further restrictions could have a negative impact on the supply of poultry meat,” adding that the decision was made after an assessment of current circumstances.
Asked about a potential shortage of goose meat during the Lunar New Year holiday next month, Animal Husbandry Department Deputy Director Chu Ching-cheng (朱慶誠) said that based on past records, demand for goose meat is expected to be low this and next month, with demand peaking during summer.
He said the bureau is in talks with poultry meat suppliers to ensure that wholesale prices remain stable and prevent profiteering and panic buying.
However, he also expressed concern over stalling geese sales, saying that wholesalers have been reluctant to purchase geese since the outbreaks began last week.
As of noon yesterday, about 36,000 birds at 23 establishments confirmed to have been hit by the new strains were exterminated since culling began on Sunday, the council said.
It took director Chong Keat Aun (張吉安) nearly a decade to complete Snow in Midsummer (五月雪), a deft chronicle of Malaysia’s May 13 incident told through one woman’s search for her brother and father. Although only his second feature, it led the field at yesterday’s Golden Horse Awards with nine nominations. Chong said it had been a struggle to get people to share their memories of the intercommunal violence following the 1969 national election, known among the country’s ethnic Chinese community as “513.” “My father, for example, would shut the conversation down if my mother or grandma even mentioned the topic,” Chong said
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday said that a surge in respiratory illnesses in China has been caused by at least seven types of pathogens, and small children, elderly people and immunocompromised people should temporarily avoid unnecessary visits to China. The recent outbreak of respiratory illnesses in China is mainly in the north and among children, CDC Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞) said on Monday. Data released by the Chinese National Health Commission on Sunday showed that among children aged one to four, the main pathogens were influenza viruses and rhinoviruses, while among children aged five to 14, the main pathogens
A new poll of Taiwanese voters found the top opposition candidate for president jumping past the ruling party’s hopeful into the lead position ahead of January’s election — the latest twist in a drama-filled race. Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) had an approval rating of 31.9 percent versus 29.2 percent for the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) presidential candidate Vice President William Lai (賴清德), the poll released yesterday by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation showed. The Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential candidate, New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜), ranked third with 23.6 percent, according to the survey conducted
A New Taipei City hotpot restaurant could be fined after a rat dropped from the ceiling and landed on a customer’s plate last week, the New Taipei City Department of Health said yesterday after conducting an inspection. A woman recently posted on the “I am a Banciao resident” (我是板橋人) social media group saying that she had been eating with a friend at Chien Tu Shabu Shabu Hotpot Restaurant’s Shuangshi B branch in Banciao District (板橋). “While still eating, a big rat suddenly dropped down from the ceiling, landing on a plate next to a hotpot,” she said. “Later on, a member of