Minister Lin Tsung-hsien of the COA Inspects Avian Influenza Epidemic Prevention Operations as Central and Local Governments Join Efforts to Block the H5N6 Outbreak


  Minister Lin Tsung-hsien of the Council of Agriculture (COA) inspected the quarantine station and poultry farm regarding their avian influenza prevention operations in Yilan on February 9 2017. Minister Lin pointed out that subsequent to the discovery of influenza subtype H5N6 virus in Yuli Township, Hualien County, nine poultry farms within a 3 kilometer radius of the discovery location have been sampled for further examination. Ten backyard poultry farms are also sampled. Before February 21, waterfowls from Hualien County are not allowed to be transported to and slaughtered in other counties. Also, quarantine stations were established along major roads in Yilan County’s Suao Township, Hualien County’s Chongde Township, and Taitung County’s Chihshang and Changbin Townships. These posts will inspect poultry carriers for poultry health certificates and poultry health conditions. As well as the transport vehicles will be sterilized to prevent the virus from spreading the virus. In addition, the Council has set up Emergency Response Team to work with local governments to combat the invasion and to block the outbreak of H5N6.

  Minister Lin also requested all poultry farmers to take proper measures to keep warm and maintain good ventilation during the arrival of cold front, to enhance bird disease resistance, to prevent poultry from any contact with wild birds, and to implement biosecurity measures such as gates control and disinfection. Abnormal poultry behavior found in farms must be reported to local animal health inspection authorities for immediate taking control measures to prevent possible outbreak. He also reminded the public to refrain from coming into direct contact with wild birds as well as feeding them. If anyone comes across dead wild birds, he or she should inform local animal health inspection authorities immediately.

  In addition, the media questioned that the bird found in Hualien County’s Yuli Township on February 5, which was confirmed to be infected with H5N6 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), was not a gosling. The COA responded that no matter which species the bird in question belonged to, the same control procedures would be employed. The COA further explained that geese, ducks, and wild geese are all members of the family anatidae. Because the bird in question was found to be infected with H5N6 with the concern of possible virus spreading, it was unable to determine the species of the bird right away. Therefore, pictures were submitted to livestock institutions for identification. According to characteristics of its beak and soles, the possibility of it being a gosling was greatest. Currently, the Animal Health Research Institute has performed inactivated virus treatment on the bird and would transfer the specimen to relevant authorities for further identification of the species.

  Regarding former Director General Su Ih-jen's of the Center for Disease Control questioning the motive for promoting single-use containers and packing materials for fresh eggs as well as questioning on the appearance of a localized avian influenza virus, the COA solemnly clarifies that once a poultry farm presents a confirmed case of avian influenza, it would be immediately published on the website of the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine's Avian Influenza dedicated section. Furthermore, the location in question would be marked on the map to alert other business operators and to enhance prevention measures. At the same time, press releases would also be published on the website to explain the whole event in detail. The entire process is transparent and can be subjected to public review.

  The COA states that using disposable containers or packing materials for fresh eggs has become a common practice around the world, and developed countries have adopted biodegradable single-use containers for the eggs. In fact, some Southeast Asian and African countries have also adopted the practice. This is a policy that deserves active promotion since it would increase food safety for consumers and help industries upgrade. Moreover, Taiwan is actively dedicated to avian influenza prevention and monitoring. In 2015, HPAI cases including H5N2, H5N8 and H5N3 occurred and over 5.4 million poultry from 1004 poultry farms were slaughtered. After central and local authorities initiated various control measures, the epidemic was controlled and stabilized. In 2016, only 280,000 fowls from 37 poultry farms were slaughtered, while in 2017, only 120,000 birds from 13 farms had to be culled so far. The epidemic impact has decreased significantly when compared with that in 2015. The H5N3 virus has not been detected since March 2015, while the 4-basic-amino–acid H5N2 subtype virus was not found after September 2015, demonstrating the effectiveness of prevention operation. The situation is not as described by former Director General Su.