Sunday, December 21, 2008

Taiwan culls 18,000 chickens after avian flu discovered

TAIPEI : Taiwanese agricultural authorities on Sunday confirmed that they had slaughtered 18,000 chickens after an outbreak of bird flu.

The authorities said when a farm in Luchu, southern Kaohsiung county reported some of their chickens had died of an unknown disease on October 21, they immediately banned movement of the birds from the farm.

An inspection report released on Saturday showed that the chickens had contracted the H5N2 strain of the disease, a less virulent strain than H5N1, which can be transmitted to humans.

However, the findings of the report came too late for the 18,000 chickens on the farm that were slaughtered on November 14.

"We took the most stringent measures in dealing with the episode as according to the rules of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), there was no need to slaughter those chickens," Huang Kwo-ching, deputy director of the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine, told AFP.

"The OIE was informed of the outbreak yesterday," he said, adding that the origin of the outbreak remains unclear.

Since the outbreak 76 chicken farms within three kilometres (1.8 miles) of the epicentre have been monitored to ensure the disease does not spread, he added.

Taiwan has suspended its poultry exports, but will be allowed to resume them if no fresh outbreak of H5N2 is reported within the next three months, Huang said.

There have been no recorded cases of the deadly H5N1 strain in Taiwan, although in 2005 authorities here said eight pet birds smuggled from China had tested positive for the strain and had been destroyed.

The virus has killed about 250 people worldwide since late 2003.

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