Taiwan officials discover more farms infected with bird flu

Agriculture personnel cull geese at a local farm in Taiwan's southern Chiayi county on January 11, 2015.

TAIPEI - Tainan City officials have confirmed over the past two days that an additional seven farms raising birds have been exposed to the H5N2 and H5N8 strains of bird flu. The city government mobilized workers to carry out large-scale exterminations. It is estimated that ten thousand birds were culled yesterday alone, according to the Tainan City hall.

The Tainan City Animal Health Inspection and Protection Office chief Lee Chao-chuan stated that according to official reports, among the seven farms infected, one chicken farm in Yanshui district had its livestock culled on Wednesday night, and yesterday one farm in Hsiaying, five chicken farms and one waterfowl farm in Madou (麻豆) had their livestock culled. Lee indicated that the city government is carrying out the extermination of infected birds as quickly as possible to prevent further epidemic expansion.

Tainan City Chairman Lee Chuan-chiao visited the Madou district office yesterday along with five legislators to personally check the progress of epidemic prevention. Lee stated that he directly communicated with COA Chairman Chen Bao-chi to hopefully get additional support from the central government. According to Lee, the COA arranged for military personal to carry out the culling and cremation of the bird carcases.

In Changhua County, the Animal Disease Control Center stated that four farms are still under investigation while two farms have already had their livestock culled. Changhua County Animal Disease Control Center Secretary Hsieh Yi-mei stated yesterday that a farm with 50 chickens in Shenkang township discovered that seven of their chickens suddenly died yesterday. Hsieh said the case has already been sent to the Council of Agriculture's (COA) office for inspection and results are expected to come out sometime today.

Health Symptoms 'not related' to Bird Flu: MOHW

The deputy chief of the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW), Lin Tsou-yen stated yesterday that the rate of bird flu transmission among humans is extremely low. Currently among the 573 officials in charge of monitoring bird flu infected farms, 26 of them have symptoms of illness, but it is expected that the symptoms are not related to H5 flu strains.

The COA's Dongshih Forest District Office recommends that visitors to the Dasyueshan national forest recreation area maintain a safe distance from any birds in the area as a precaution due to the quickly expanding H5 strains of bird flu.

Tourists Should Keep Distance from Birds: Forest Office

Dasyueshan is known to have over a hundred species of birds and is therefore a nature tourist hotspot and popular location for bird watchers, according to the forest district office. Due to Pingtung, Chiayi, Yunlin, and Tainan reporting instances of H5N2 and H5N8 affecting chickens and waterfowl respectively the popularity of birdwatching is coming into question as a safe activity.

Forest office chief Lee Yen-shou explained that the mountain is home to certain birds that do not live at flat ground or areas below sea level. Therefore several species of birds that are at risk of contracting bird flu would be a major hit to the internationally recognised birdwatching spot. Lee also advised that visitors should not feed the birds as it could provoke wild bird movement, and is also against wild animal preservation laws. Violation of these laws could result in 1 year imprisonment or fines anywhere between NT$60,000 (S$2,511.82) - NT$300,000.

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