Avian flu strikes Taiwan chicken farm, 17,000 birds culled

PHOTO: Reuters

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Chickens at a Yunlin County poultry farm were found to be infected with the H5N2 avian influenza, according to the local Animal and Plant Disease Control Center, yesterday, making it the latest case in recent bird flu outbreaks.

Liao Pei-chih, head of Yunlin County's Animal and Plant Disease Control Center, stated that approximately 17,000 chickens out of a total of 23,000 were destroyed at the affected farm located in Yuan Chang Township, after the birds tested positive for H5N2.

Initial speculation about the Yunlin outbreak points toward wild birds hiding in the chicken farm during recent downpours, and thus transmitting the virus to farm poultry, Liao stated.

Liao said that the chickens were found with bleeding crests and feet on Aug. 24. The birds were culled after confirming the contamination. Safety measures and monitoring of the farm's surroundings were conducted as well. Security measures will be lifted once no birds are found ill.

The Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine also clarified that approximately 6,000 ducks have been culled as well in Pingtung since Aug. 26.

Inspection and quarantine officials warned that the current avian outbreak is still considered "serious" and citizens should take all necessary precautions.

Heavy rainfall brought in by typhoons as well as the lower temperatures and humid weather are all seen as causes of the recent bird flu outbreaks, deputy secretary of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine Shih Tai-hua stated.

The poultry farms in Yunlin, Chiayi and Pingtung that saw avian flu outbreaks in recent weeks are likely cases of reinfections due to loose animal safety precautions and inspections of personnel and vehicles traveling out of the farms, Shih stated. Such poultry farms had passed disinfection and sentinel chicken tests earlier this year.

Local animal disease control centres have begun inspections to determine the possible origins of the avian flu in the contaminated areas.