An outbreak of the H5N2 strain of avian influenza at a chicken farm in Tainan that led to the culling of 34,072 chickens on Sunday was not linked to an outbreak in Yunlin last week in which thousands of chickens were culled, the Council of Agriculture (COA) yesterday said.
The two outbreaks are isolated cases and the council will continue to supervise the situation, the COA’s Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine Deputy Director-General Shih Tai-hua (施泰華) said.
However, the council will not adopt further precautionary measures, he added.
The COA’s Animal Health Research Institute on Sunday confirmed that chickens culled at a farm in Tainan’s Siaying District (下營) had contracted the H5N2 strain, Tainan’s Animal Health Inspection and Protection Office said in a press release.
Samples collected from 14 other chicken farms in the vicinity are being examined, the office’s deputy head Chuang Wei-chao (莊惟超) said.
Last month, Premier Lin Chuan (林全) ordered the closure of the Central Emergency Operation Center that had been activated to combat the H5N6 avian flu, saying the epidemic was under control.
However, sporadic outbreaks of H5N2 avian flu were reported afterward in the south Taiwan.
Yunlin County’s Animal and Plant Disease Control Center culled 11,008 chickens on Friday, 1,811 turkeys on Thursday and 11,233 chickens on Sunday last week on three different farms, center specialist Cheng An-guo (鄭安國) said.
The abnormally wet weather and heavy rainfall this year might have caused the unusual occurrence of outbreaks in summer, Chuang and Cheng said.
“A chicken’s immune system weakens in cool weather,” Cheng said, adding that Yunlin has never seen this much rain at this time of year before.
Although this month’s outbreaks are limited to the H5N2 strain of the virus, the H5N6 strain that can infect people has not been completely eradicated in the nation, Cheng said, adding that more observation is needed.
In related news, the number of ponds in Taoyuan infected with tilapia lake virus (TiLV) has increased to seven, COA Minister Lin Tsung-hsien (林聰賢) told a news conference in Taipei yesterday.
Lin added that infected fish have not made it to markets.
The council on Friday formed an ad hoc committee to discuss ways to deal with the outbreak, Lin said, adding that experts met in the Executive Yuan yesterday.
Of the seven infected ponds in Taoyuan’s Guanyin District (觀音), dead fish were found in only two ponds, Lin said.
“Infected fish lose blood and have swollen eyes — visible symptoms that mean they are unlikely to be sold in markets,” he said.
The council and the city government on Monday last week announced a two-week transport restriction, he added.
Tilapia imports from nations with TiLV outbreaks, including China, Israel, Thailand and Egypt, will be banned, while controls over fish imported from other nations will be tightened, COA Deputy Minister Huang Chin-cheng (黃金城) said.
The council has examined 23 ponds in Taoyuan within a 3km radius of the first affected pond, while 30 other ponds in a 5km radius are to be examined, he added.
The council also examined samples from 11 fisheries in other regions, but no infected tilapia were found elsewhere, Lin said.
Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦) on Sunday urged the council to offer full reimbursement to affected fish farmers, but Lin said the case is not like avian flu, adding: “No reimbursement will be offered as the council did not kill the infected fish.”
Tilapia that are susceptible to the virus are mainly of the species Oreochromis niloticus, the council’s Fisheries Research Institute Director Chen Chu-ju (陳君如) said.
The source of the virus is being investigated, but it might have existed in the nation for a while, Chen said, adding that the mortality rate of 6.7 percent is relatively low in comparison with other nations where TiLV outbreaks have occurred.
The institute is developing a new species of tilapia with stronger resistance to the virus, Lin said.
National Taiwan University’s School of Veterinary Medicine chairman Chou Chin-Cheng (周晉澄) yesterday promised to help develop quick testing for the virus, he added.
Lin was scheduled to examine the ponds in Taoyuan at 3pm yesterday, but canceled the trip in the morning.
In response to media queries about the cancelation, Executive Yuan spokesperson Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) said in a statement that the epidemic’s cause was not yet clear, so it was better not to disrupt the infected area at the moment.
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