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New Taipei on high alert for H5 avian flu outbreaks

2017/09/03 15:09:54

Photo courtesy of New Taipei Animal Protection and Health Inspection Office

Taipei, Sept. 3 (CNA) New Taipei, the municipality that consumes the most chickens in Taiwan, is on high alert after a slaughterhouse in the city reported highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 infections in chickens on three of its nine slaughter lines.

The New Taipei Domestic Poultry Slaughterhouse found Sept. 1 that one chicken on each of the three slaughter lines showed symptoms of avian flu infection, such as sporadic redness on the chicken body, swelling around the eyes, and hemorrhaging on the feet, according to the city's Animal Protection and Health Inspection Office.

Veterinarians at the slaughterhouse at once informed the office and the Council of Agriculture (COA) -- the top agriculture authorities -- of the findings, the office said, noting that after an immediate probe, the infected poultry was found to have been shipped from two chicken farms in Yunlin County and Taoyuan to New Taipei for slaughter and sale.

Based on the findings, 40 other suspect chicken carcasses were frozen and sealed. At the same time, all the relevant local animal quarantine authorities were notified of the need to conduct source quarantine, while the three affected slaughter lines were shut down for sterilization.

The New Taipei Animal Protection and Health Inspection Office said Sunday that laboratory tests have confirmed that the problematic chickens were infected with the HPAI H5 virus. As a result of the evidence, the 40 frozen chickens were destroyed in an effort to prevent the virus from spreading.

The office said that although New Taipei has not reported any avian flu outbreaks, it is the country's largest chicken consumer, where the number of chickens slaughtered reaches 30,000 to 40,000 per day.

It is crucial to ensure that the slaughterhouse is completely sterilized and to reinforce safety checks on chickens delivered from around the island for slaughter before they are sold in markets around the city, the office said.

New Taipei is the largest city in Taiwan in terms of population.

Taiwan was cleared in July from an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N6 virus -- which can be transmitted from birds to humans -- after reporting its first confirmed case of the virus in February.

Since then, stringent quarantine measures have been carried out.

After the virus hit 12 farms in four cities and counties around the country, there have been no reports of any new H5H6 cases since March 6, according to the COA.

The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) officially confirmed July 24 that the H5N6 outbreak in Taiwan had ended. In total, the confirmed cases resulted in the culling of nearly 42,000 birds, the COA said.

(By Lin Chang-shun and Elizabeth Hsu)