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Taiwan culls 57,000 chickens in first H5N2 bird flu outbreak

The outbreaks might threaten the export of poultry and eggs worth up to NT$700 million (US$23.7 million) a year

Taiwan culls 57,000 chickens in first H5N2 bird flu outbreak

The first outbreak in Taiwan of the highly pathogenic form of H5N2 bird flu forced the cull of more than 57,000 chickens, but there was no danger of infection for humans, the Council of Agriculture announced Saturday.
The type of the avian influenza is known as highly pathogenic because almost every bird which contracts the disease is likely to die, reports said.
Last December 27, the disease was found at an egg farm in Fangyuan, Changhua County, where 54,000 chickens had to be culled Friday night. A slaughterhouse in Yunlin County found signs of a disease in chickens on February 7, and the birds were eventually traced back to a farm in Tainan where 4,500 chickens were killed on February 10.
The decision to kill the poultry in Changhua came so long after the discovery of the disease because originally, only three to five chickens died per week, throwing doubt on the nature of the disease, reports said. A documentary maker specialized in avian influenza, Lee Hui-jen, apparently took the initiative of sending dead animals to the COA for tests. Even though original suspicions had focused on a less threatening form of bird flu, the lab tests found evidence of H5N2, reports said.
Lee accused the COA of covering up the outbreak and endangering the public. When the price of eggs rose last winter, the government claimed it was a result of the cold weather, but Lee said that in this event, eggs would become more expensive each winter. Instead, the outbreak of bird flu had affected the poultry and reduced egg production, he said.
Officials said they kept 203 other poultry farms within three kilometers of the Fangyuan farm under close watch for two months, but no new outbreaks were reported. After collecting information about H5N2 from overseas, a new meeting of experts on March 1 decided to take a strong stance and ordered the destruction of all chickens at the Changhua farm.
The time elapsed between the original find and the decision for the cull allowed some eggs from the farm to be sold to the public, but the COA added that they had been treated with disinfectants and consuming them could not cause the disease to jump from animals to humans.
The farmer would receive NT$7.5 million (US$254,000) in compensation for his slaughtered animals, reports said. The cull would not affect the price of eggs, according to officials.
The H5N2 type of bird flu was different from H5N1, which could affect humans. In the latest outbreak, five cases of the latter were diagnosed in humans in Egypt and Indonesia in late February, according to data from the World Health Organization. All patients had come into close contact with chickens, reports said.
The number of animal bird flu cases this year was rising rapidly, with 51 outbreaks reported in nine countries, with Hong Kong, Vietnam and Nepal leading the statistics.
The Department of Health called on Taiwanese citizens to raise their awareness when traveling overseas and to stay away from birds. If they felt fever or other symptoms of bird flu after returning home, they should contact a hospital without delay, the DOH said.
The outbreaks might threaten the export of poultry and eggs worth up to NT$700 million (US$23.7 million) a year, reports said. The COA said it would report the cases to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) later Saturday, a move which might result in an export ban of at least three months if no further outbreaks occurred.
The three largest markets for Taiwanese poultry meat were Vietnam, South Korea and China, while fresh eggs were exported to Hong Kong and processed egg products to Chinese communities all over the world.


Updated : 2021-02-27 07:13 GMT+08:00