PH bans poultry from China amid bird flu scareBy Riza T. Olchondra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Skip the Peking Duck for now.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) has imposed a temporary ban on poultry and related products from China because of bird flu concerns.
All shipments of poultry and poultry products from China were also ordered stopped and confiscated by authorized quarantine inspectors and officers at all major seaports and airports.
The highly infectious H7N9 virus that causes bird flu has affected poultry in Shanghai and neighboring regions in China’s Eastern seaboard, according to the Ministry of Health in China and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The ban, meant to stop travelers from bringing in birds and other poultry products from China, sought to prevent the entry of the pathogenic virus causing avian influenza to protect the health of the local poultry population, the DA said in its memorandum order released this week.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said that emergency measures were being implemented in response to such concerns.
The DA order banned the importation of domestic and wild birds from China, including related products such as day-old chicks, eggs, and semen.
The order also suspended the processing, evaluation, and issuance of veterinary quarantine clearance and international veterinary certificate import permit by the Bureau of Animal Industry for applications relevant to the importation of affected commodities from China.
The WHO said in a report on April 25 that a total of 109 cases of human infection (including 22 deaths) have been confirmed in China.
Outside China, the Taipei Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has confirmed the infection of a 53-year-old Taiwan businessman who contracted the H7N9 strain of bird flu while traveling in China.
Asian countries have been racing to protect their borders and prevent the entry of the virus strain that a WHO official has reportedly described as “dangerous.”
Taiwan urged its residents to take “enhanced precautions” when visiting China, and placed Shanghai, Beijing and five Chinese provinces on particular alert for travelers after at least 22 deaths were confirmed there.
The island nation’s CDC confirmed that the Taiwanese businessman who showed symptoms of possible bird flu infection three days after returning from China, has been hospitalized since April 16 and is in serious but stable condition.
There have been 111 confirmed cases of human infection with H7N9 avian influenza in China, including fatalities, figures from Chinese authorities and the WHO indicated.
The WHO maintained its global advisory for combating bird flu, urging against contact with live poultry but not recommending any restrictions against travel to China.
The “enhanced precautions” urged by Taiwan’s CDC were in line with the WHO advice that counseled people to avoid going to poultry markets, to stay away from anyone with a fever and to eat only thoroughly cooked bird meat and eggs.
WHO experts said on Wednesday that H7N9 was a particularly lethal influenza virus but that there was no proof yet of sustained transmission between humans.
Chinese researchers reporting in The Lancet on Thursday confirmed that poultry was a source of the virus, but that they found no evidence of person-to-person transmission.
Asian nations said they had measures in place, pioneered during the deadly outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) a decade ago, but appealed to their citizens to heed the WHO guidelines in light of the Taiwan case.
“Our healthcare institutions remain on heightened alert and are prepared for the eventuality of a possible case, especially given today’s globalized travel patterns,” Singapore’s health ministry said in a statement.
Influx of tourists
Many Asian countries including China’s neighbors Japan and South Korea are anticipating an influx of Chinese tourists during next week over the Labor Day holiday.
Japan’s foreign ministry reissued a travel advisory to citizens planning to visit China or Taiwan, warning them to stay away from bird farms and wear masks in crowded areas.
Reviving a SARS-era precaution, Japan has been checking inbound travelers with body temperature monitors as it gears up for the “Golden Week” spring vacation starting next week.
South Korea, Hong Kong and the Philippines have resumed using thermal scanners at their main ports of entry to detect anyone arriving with a fever.
Teams of cleaners
Municipal authorities in South Korea meanwhile designated a network of clinics and hospitals to quickly test and treat potential patients. Teams of cleaners have assured the public that they regularly wiped public venues with disinfectant.
Taiwan said it was bringing forward plans to ban the killing of live poultry in traditional markets by a month, to May 17.
Under the ban, market vendors will not be allowed to sell birds they have killed themselves, only poultry supplied from Taiwan’s 79 approved slaughterhouses. With a report from the AFP