DR YAP HIM HOO,
AVA manages free-roaming chicken population for public health and safety
We thank the writers who have shared their views on the management of free-roaming chickens and would like to take this opportunity to clarify the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority's (AVA) position on the matter.
One of AVA's responsibilities is to ensure that Singapore is kept free from the associated animal and plant diseases that pose a threat to public health.
In this regard, AVA needs to carry out surveillance work to detect and control diseases early, well before they can potentially spread to Singapore.
There is clear scientific evidence that chickens are susceptible to the bird flu virus, and these chickens can in turn transmit the disease to humans.
This was what happened when the region was struck with bird flu in 2004.
It is also why the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE) and Food and Agriculture Organisation, in a joint statement to battle bird flu in 2004, specifically mentioned the need to manage free-range chickens, so as to control bird flu at source.
Keeping poultry in a bio-secured environment is a measure recommended by the OIE to prevent bird flu incursion.
The risk of free-roaming chickens here being exposed to bird flu is real and significant, as we are one of the stopover nodes for migratory wild birds.
This means that the chickens on our island can catch the disease through direct contact with wild birds or even through their droppings.
In a recent bird flu outbreak in Denmark, investigations found that the outbreak started due to contact between wild birds and free-roaming chickens.
There have also been cases of bird flu outbreaks around the world where the primary risk factor for human infection was linked to direct or indirect exposure to infected poultry.
The various media reports may have given the impression that AVA is taking action solely because of complaints of noise.
But that is not the case. AVA's concern is not about noise but about public health and safety.
The noise issue only served to bring attention to the relatively high numbers of free-roaming chickens in certain areas, which in turn raise the exposure risk to bird flu there.
We recognise the views expressed from different stakeholders and will continue to explore various options to manage the free-roaming chicken population here.
We are also continuing our research studies on the risks of a bird flu outbreak here, to better understand how the disease may start and spread through the free-roaming chicken population here and what measures are needed to reduce public health risks.
We seek the understanding of all Singaporeans as we go about doing this work to keep our nation and our people safe.
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This article was first published on Feb 15, 2017.
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