February 17, 2015


Philippines bans Israel and Oregon poultry products



The Philippine government said Monday it is putting a temporary ban on the import of domesticated and wild birds and their products coming from Haifa, Israel; and Oregon, USA, as a precautionary measure against avian influenza, or bird flu.


The country's agriculture secretary, Proceso Alcala, said poultry products including poultry meat, day-old chicks, eggs, and semen originating from the avian flu-affected areas in Israel and the US will not be allowed into the country.


He also ordered that with the exception of heat-treated products, all shipments of the mentioned items shall be stopped and confiscated by Department of Agriculture (DA) veterinary quarantine officers/inspectors stationed at all major ports.


The agriculture department, in imposing the temporary ban on Haifa birds and their products, cited a report by the Office of International des Epizooties (OIE) or World Organisation for Animal Health about the outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus in the farming communities in Aviel and Hadera in Haifa District, Israel, last January 14.


The DA cited findings of the Paris-based OIE that the outbreak--which affected turkey fattening farms--was caused by the H5N1 strain of the HPAI virus as confirmed by the Kimron Veterinary Institute's Avian Diseases Laboratory through real-time polymerase chain reaction.


The Philippine department also said that on December 19, 2014, the H5N8 strain of the HPAI virus was confirmed in a Douglas County (in Oregon) backyard bird flock near Winston city, killing 20 guinea fowl and 2 chickens. H5N8 is the same virus strain found in a captive gyrfalcon in Whatcom County, Washington, it said. Avian influenza naturally resides in wild birds and it is fairly common for waterfowl to carry various strains of the virus.


It is said that during winter season, HPAI outbreaks in North American countries are not uncommon because the virus thrives in cold climate.


Immediate suspension of processing


Aside from restricting the entry of poultry products, Secretary Alcala also called for the immediate suspension of processing, evaluation of application, and issuance of Sanitary and Phytosanitary import clearance for the mentioned products from the affected areas.


The DA said that the Philippines' poultry subsector grossed P189.7 billion (US$4.3 billion) last year, or 7.84% higher than in 2013.


"We cannot afford then to lose this growth foothold to avian diseases; that is why we are keen on monitoring entry of products that could threaten the health of our poultry industry," Alcala said.


The country, according to the Department of Agriculture, has managed to maintain its bird-flu-free status since 2003 when some Asian countries were afflicted with the virus, which affected their poultry.


The Philippines, being an archipelago, can curb the spread of livestock diseases easier than landlocked countries, the DA officials said.


When a certain disease is widespread in an island, it is easier to contain and save the other islands, they explained.

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