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Director accuses government of hiding outbreak of bird flu

Director accuses government of hiding outbreak of bird flu

Taipei, March 4 (CNA) The Cabinet-level Council of Agriculture "might have tried to conceal" an outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza in central Taiwan, a documentary director said Saturday. Li Hui-ren, whose documentary won the Taiwan Excellent Journalism Award in 2011, said he reported the case to the council's Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine last December when the bureau attempted to downplay the epidemic. Li, who had been a cameraman with a TV station for 15 years, has been working on the bird flu issue for six years and spent over NT$1 million (US$33,936) finishing his investigative report. He released the documentary, entitled "Unspeakable Secret," online last July. The bureau arbitrarily raised the threshold and saw the outbreak as a "potential case" of the highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza, he claimed, adding that he will continue gathering evidence to support his accusation. Taiwan confirmed the first outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza early Saturday, with 57,500 chickens culled in the Tainan and Changhua areas. An egg-laying chicken farm in Changhua reported the disease on Dec. 27, 2011, while infections among chickens at the farm in Tainan were detected on Feb. 7, 2012, according to COA officials. The highly infectious H5N2 avian influenza can only be recognized when the daily number of dead chickens has reached over 0.075 percent for three days in a row, while those at the egg-laying chicken farm in Changhua were below the norm, according to the bureau. However, Li said that the bureau "arbitrarily changed the standard again," charging that it added the death rate standard to whitewash the situation. In 2010, Li also filed a similar charge against the bureau, which is still being reviewed, according to the director. In response, bureau officials said that all statistics it provides are meant to present the facts. Meanwhile, investigators said Sunday that they have begun looking into the case, after receiving information in mid-January. Civil servants could face a maximum of 10 years in prison if it is proven that their negligence results in a hazard to the public. (By Yang Shu-min, Alex Jiang and James Lee)


Updated : 2021-03-08 12:01 GMT+08:00