DA widens ban on US poultry imports

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MANILA has widened the import ban on chicken and wild birds from the United States mainland as avian influenza continues to spread in major poultry-producing territories.

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In Memorandum Order No. 33-15, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala has added Nebraska to the list of US states affected by bird flu to protect the Philippines’ poultry population as well as human health.

The ban stemmed from a report by Dr. John Clifford, deputy administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the US Department of Agriculture, to the Office of International des Epizooties (OIE) that there has been an outbreak of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus in Dixon, Nebraska.

The outbreak of HPAI serotype H5N2 has affected the commercial chicken layer flock in Dixon County.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) now has existing import bans on domestic and wild birds—including poultry meat, day old chicks, eggs and semen—in 14 US states. These include Arkansas, California, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Avian influenza is a highly contagious viral disease affecting several species of food-producing birds (chickens, turkeys, quails, guinea fowl, etc.) as well as pet birds and wild birds. In its notifiable form, the disease can be divided into two categories—the high and low pathogenecity.

HPAI virus spreads rapidly, may cause serious disease and result in high mortality rates (up to 100 percent within 48 hours). The low pathogenic avian influenza can cause mild disease that may be undetected or show no symptoms at all in some species of birds.

In line with the ban, Alcala ordered the immediate suspension of the processing and evaluation of applications and issuances of veterinary quarantine clearances on the importation of poultry products from the affected US territories.

The official also mandated the DA’s veterinary quarantine officers or inspectors in all major ports to halt and confiscate all shipments of poultry and poultry products (with the exception of heat treated products) from America.

To this day, the Philippines remains free from the highly pathogenic avian influenza or bird flu.

Manila imports about 10 percent, or over 45 million kilos, of chicken (leg quarters) and more than 110 million kilos of mechanically deboned meat from US suppliers annually.

The Philippines is also importing about 150,000-200,000 heads of US-grown breeders, which accounts for 50 percent of the total layers in the country.

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