Gov’t to ban live bird trades at midnight

The government said Sunday it will ban the trade of live birds for two weeks starting midnight Sunday to prevent the further spread of bird flu.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs announced the ban as the highly pathogenic avian influenza has spread to 21 farms in 10 days.

In this photo provided by the South Gyeongsang provincial government, a quarantine official restricts access to a farm suspected of having chickens infected with avian influenza in Goseong, 466 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on June 11, 2017. (Yonhap)

The measure is an extension of a ban the government placed last week on the trade of birds at traditional markets and restaurants that raise their own chickens and ducks.

The ministry said it will also ban the transportation of live birds nationwide, rather than only in areas affected by the disease.

Under the new measures, vendors who wish to transport or trade live birds will be required to pass clinical tests by quarantine authorities.

The latest outbreak is thought to have begun at a farm in Gunsan, 274 kilometers south of Seoul, and spread nationwide mainly through small farms.

At a government meeting earlier in the day, Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon instructed officials to take all preventive measures as the  epidemic could spread over the long term.

“The fact that new cases of AI are appearing through the trade of birds by intermediary vendors and not just through birds that were bought directly in Gunsan means that the current quarantine system is incomplete,” he said. (Yonhap)

South Korea to cull nearly 190,000 farm bids to contain bird flu

South Korean health officials carry chickens at a poultry farm where a birdflu virus broke out in Ulsan, South Korea, June 5, 2017. Picture taken on June 5, 2017.  Yonhap via REUTERS

South Korea’s agriculture ministry said on Wednesday it has ordered a cull of 186,100 farm birds to prevent the spread of bird flu after more cases of the highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu were confirmed.

The order comes after the government raised the country’s bird flu alert level to the highest level on Monday when the first bird flu case found since early April was confirmed as the H5N8 strain.

As of Wednesday, a total of five cases of highly pathogenic avian flu had been confirmed in the country’s four regions, the agriculture ministry said in a statement.

The additional cull will take the total number of birds killed since the latest outbreak began in November last year to 38 million, said an agriculture ministry spokesman Lee Ju-myeung, equal to more than a fifth of Korea’s total poultry population.

However, Lee said a further mass culling was unlikely as the new cases of bird flu had been found mostly on small farms.

“The virus typically does not spread fast in summer, so it seems we can contain the spread of the virus at an early stage by disinfecting farms,” he said.

The ministry has also ramped up preventive measures, including a temporary nationwide ban of poultry transportation, which took effective from 1500 GMT on Tuesday for 24 hours.

(Reporting By Jane Chung; Editing by Richard Pullin)

Nine ways to avoid bird flu

Poultry farm

The Federal Government on Friday alerted Nigerians to the outbreak of Avian Influenza or bird flu in the Federal Capital Territory and seven states of the country.

Gideon Mshelbwala, the Director of Veterinary and Pest Control Services, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, listed the states affected by the outbreak to include Bauchi, Kano, Katsina, Nasarawa, Plateau, FCT and Kaduna, which reported a case on May 30.

Premium Times has compiled some of the things people need to know to help prevent the spread and reduce the epidemic outbreak of the disease.

1. Avoid wild and domesticated birds, especially birds that appear ill or dead.

2. Cook poultry food thoroughly until the juice are clear with a minimum internal temperature of 74 degrees (165 F), heat kills avian viruses.

3. Wash your hands with alcohol based hand sanitizer containing at least 60 per cent alcohol especially after contact with poultry foods.
4. Avoid small rural area farms and open air market especially places where live poultry are raised, kept or sold.

5. Get influenza vaccine where available. A vaccine shot will help reduce the risk of simultaneous infection with bird and human flu viruses.

6. Steer clear of raw eggs, avoid food containing raw or under-cooked eggs because eggshells are often contaminated with bird droppings.

7. Avoid cross-contamination of utensils and surfaces which have come in contact with raw poultry or poultry droppings.

8. Avoid close contact with family members diagnosed or who have been or suspected to be exposed to avian influenza viruses.

9. Report health-related cases or any flu-like symptoms.

For the first time, a new strain of bird flu was transmitted human-to-human. This is highly unusual–and could be the first sign of new global pandemic.

Two Chinese cities close poultry markets after H7N9 bird flu infections


China will shut poultry markets in certain districts of two cities after H7N9 bird flu infections were detected, state media reported on Sunday, the latest incidents in this year’s more severe outbreak of the virus.

A 44-year-old man who sold poultry at a farmers market in southwestern Sichuan province’s Zigong city was diagnosed with H7N9, China News Service reported. Local authorities announced a one-month halt to poultry markets in the city’s Ziliujing district from midnight on Monday.


Separately, a 74-year old man who had visited poultry markets in Shandong province’s Binzhou city was also diagnosed with H7N9, China Central Television reported. Binzhou authorities will temporarily halt poultry markets in three of its districts.

Bird flu can jump from poultry to humans. Human cases of bird flu have been unusually high for China since last year, with three times more fatalities from H7N9 in the first four months of the year than in all of 2016. But deaths fell in April for the third consecutive month.

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Poultry farmers threaten to sell flu infected birds

Poultry farmers threaten to sell flu infected birds

Poultry farmers threaten to sell flu infected birds

Poultry farmers across the country have threatened not to report any cases of bird flu incidence on their farms for fear that their birds will be culled and compensation will not be paid to them.

This follows the inability of the government to pay the farmers about GH¢11 million as compensation for culling 111,000 birds during the Avian influenza (bird flu) outbreak two years ago.

Already, some of the farmers have carried out their threat and are rushing infected birds to the market for sale as soon as they detect signs of bird flu on their farms.

The Parliamentary Select Committee on Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs approved GH¢11 million as compensation for the poultry farmers whose birds were culled (destroyed). Out of the amount, the farmers claim only GH¢1 million was paid as compensation to 25 farmers.

The Graphic Business has gathered also that most of the farmers have decided to defy the reporting regime and now send their birds to the market as soon as they see signs of the disease in their farms, regardless that the disease is a deadly strain of a virus that attacks poultry and is fatal for human consumption.

The deadly H5N1 virus or bird flu has killed people worldwide, particularly in Asia and the Middle East, since 2013.

Cost so far

The Veterinary Services Directorate of the Ministry of Food and Agricultural (MoFA) has described the development as unfortunate because it was likely to lead to an epidemic if the government did not act fast.

Available figures from the Veterinary Services Directorate show that the disease has affected about 66 poultry farms across the country as of May this year, with the recent occurrence in January.

So far, the country has lost huge sums of money due to the culling of 111,000 birds, various quantities of eggs and some bags of feed since the outbreak was first recorded in May 2015.

Farmers on government’s throat 

The Secretary of the Techiman Poultry Farmers Association, Mr Emmanuel Soglizu, who spoke to the Graphic Business in Accra, blamed the government for not doing enough to support the ailing poultry industry.

He stated that the government had not provided the needed support in the creation of awareness on the disease since its outbreak two years ago.

Mr Soglizu minced no words when he announced plans of the farmers to defy the reporting regime as a protest against the government to cough the rest of the funds earmarked for compensation.

“After all, they (government) can only know about the disease when we the farmers report it to them. Therefore, we are going to advise ourselves,” he said.

He noted that if robust measures were not implemented to halt the spread of the highly pathogenic Avian influenza, the poultry industry would collapse.

The secretary, therefore, called on the government to provide a detailed explanation as to how the funds earmarked for the compensation was used to combat the disease.

Affected farmers

An affected farmer, Mr Abraham Odei Tetteh, recounted how he lost his entire poultry farm as a result of the disease, with a firm assurance of receiving compensation, but said he had still not received anything from the government two years after the outbreak.

That situation, he indicated, had totally collapsed his poultry business.

“I am a pensioner and I have children in school. Poultry farming is my only source of income and now that all my birds have been destroyed I cannot tell how I will be able to survive,” Mr Tetteh said with sorrow.

He said he would join any action to press home his concerns to put pressure on the government for the compensation to be paid.

Another farmer, Mr John Attipoe, who also lost his birds through government’s measures to control the disease, said the compensation was needed to help farmers settle their debts.

“If the essence of the compensation was to enable the beneficiaries invest the funds back into poultry production, why then are they keeping our money,” he quizzed.

“For me, the Veterinary Services Directorate destroyed about 20,000 of my birds and promised the government will compensate me but until now I have not heard anything again from either the government or the directorate,” Mr Attipoe said.

Veterinary loses moral right

When contacted, the Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer of the Veterinary Service Directorate, Dr Kingsley Micky Aryee, said the government’s inaction on paying compensation to the farmers was undermining the operations of the health supervisory directorate of the industry.

“Looking at the trend ofevent for the past two years, the Veterinary Service Directorate does not have the moral right to go out there and tell any farmer to do this or that because their birds were culled and they have not been compensated,” he stressed.

Asked about the threat issued by poultry farmers not to report cases of the disease, he said it was quit unfortunate, but the situation might lead to a likely epidemic if the government did not take action.

“In fact, the farmers on a number of occasions have told us they will not report the incidence anymore, and they will restock their farms contrary to the directive for them to stop as part of measures to control the disease,” he said.

Essence of compensation

Dr Aryee said the introduction of the compensation was to help encourage poultry farmers to report any outbreak of the bird flu early and contribute to efforts to contain the disease.

According to him, the government was fully aware of the importance of the compensation payment to affected poultry farmers in the wake of the outbreak of bird flu in the country.

All efforts to reach the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) to react to the issue did not yield fruit.

US may not be ready for bird-flu outbreak, report finds

One source of vaccines at risk


Posted: 7:14 AM, May 12, 2017Updated: 7:37 AM, May 12, 2017

A government watchdog says the U.S. may not be ready for an avian-flu pandemic.

(CNN) – If an avian influenza pandemic ever hit the United States, there’s only one dependable manufacturer in the country capable of making a vaccine, a government watchdog reports.

“The U.S. government may not be able to rely on foreign countries to allow exports of pandemic vaccine because each country will likely prioritize those vaccines for its own population,” the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office said in a new report.

These forms of the virus mainly infect birds, but certain strains have mutated to transmit from birds to humans, meaning an outbreak among humans is possible — and the U.S. may not be ready.

About 90-95 percent of the national stockpile of pandemic influenza vaccines is derived from eggs, the report says, and while the vaccines are supplied by four companies, only one has an egg-based vaccine facility in the U.S.

“The U.S. government considers the one U.S.-based company as the only dependable manufacturer for producing egg-based vaccines for rapid pandemic mitigation,” the report says.

The report comes two months after China began confirming human infections of one avian influenza strain, H7N9.

Health officials are monitoring the cases in China, especially since the number of people infected exceeds previous instances in the nation, Dr. Wenqing Zhang of the World Health Organization told CNN in an earlier report.

Vaccines threatened

In the U.S., the source of vaccines is at risk, according to the report.

An outbreak of avian influenza could threaten the very same poultry that produce the eggs used in the production of human vaccines, it said.

“Protecting the chickens that lay the eggs needed to produce human pandemic influenza vaccines is an issue for federal agencies because these birds, like others, are susceptible to avian influenza,” the report says.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture relies on poultry farmers to ensure security guidelines are in place, and many are not ensuring their flocks are protected, it said.

The report also noted that U.S. agriculture officials reviewed the bio-security practices of 850 poultry producers and found that less than 60 percent had a place for employees who work at a poultry site to shower or change, increasing the chances of contamination.

Billions lost

About 50 million birds died or were killed in the outbreak of avian flu in the U.S. in 2014 and 2015. It cost the U.S. economy between $1 billion and $3.3 billion, the report said.

While the USDA took measures to address lessons learned from that outbreak, it has not evaluated their effectiveness, the report noted.

Measures taken included creating a joint bio-security website with the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association and urging producers to make bio-security a priority. US officials also provided guidance and training after they found out that some poultry producers had difficulty transporting bird carcasses to landfills due to federal and state rules restricting the movement of such cargo.

The GAO recommended that the department set up a plan to evaluate the effectiveness of its corrective measures.

U.S. officials have a three-year, $42 million contract with the vaccine manufacturing company in the U.S to protect its egg-supply chain and ensure it has a supply that can be used for vaccines. The contract expires in September, according to the report, which said that Health and Human Services officials are confident the company has a secure bio-security program.

Poultry outbreaks

Symptoms of avian influenza, also known as bird flu, include fever, cough, sore throat and sometimes pneumonia. The infection can be treated with antiviral medications.

The official name for the most common and deadliest form of the virus is Influenza A (H5N1), or the “H5N1 virus.”

The strain of bird flu reported to be circulating in humans in China since February — H7N9 — was first detected in March 2013, at which point it had previously not been seen in humans.

Hundreds of millions of birds have been killed worldwide in an attempt to control the spread of the avian flu.

There are many different strains of avian flu, but only those labeled H5, H7 and H10 are known to have caused deaths in humans to date.

Copyright 2017 by CNN N

With bird flu surging, U.S. needs to do more to prevent possible pandemic, GAO says

May 11

If the United States were suddenly facing a potential avian influenza pandemic, just one U.S. manufacturer could be counted on to make human pandemic flu vaccine here. And although the chickens that lay the eggs used in the process are themselves susceptible to the virus, until an emergency arises only voluntary and often inadequate measures by poultry producers are in place to protect flocks, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.

The report, scheduled for release next week, comes at a time of heightened public health worries about bird flu. One of the deadliest strains, H7N9, is causing a surge in human infections in China this season. Of the nearly 200 people who have died, most had direct contact with poultry or poultry markets.

Health officials worldwide are closely monitoring the disease’s spread because of the big increase in cases and worrisome changes in the virus. Of all emerging influenza viruses, this strain of H7N9 has the greatest potential to cause a pandemic if it evolves to spread easily from human to human. It also poses the greatest risk to cause serious disease.

Controlling the virus in poultry is the main way to reduce human infection and prevent a pandemic, the GAO report says. It focuses primarily on Agriculture Department actions after bird flu outbreaks in 2014 and 2016, which resulted in the deaths of millions of domesticated poultry in 15 states and $2 billion in costs to the federal government and U.S. economy. Despite the lessons learned, the report concludes that federal agencies face “ongoing challenges and associated issues” in mitigating the potential harm of avian influenza.

Bird flu outbreaks this spring in Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky have led officials to euthanize more than 200,000 animals. They are different from the strain of the H7N9 virus currently spreading in Asia, according to Agriculture officials.

Among the report’s findings:

• Unless the agency is responding to an emergency, the Agriculture Department doesn’t have the authority to require poultry producers to take preventive biosecurity measures to keep avian influenza from spreading from farm to farm. When the agency asked 850 poultry producers to turn in self-assessments on such measures, less than 60 percent said they had key practices in place to reduce contamination — such as having workers shower or change into clean clothes immediately after arriving at a poultry site to reduce the risk of introducing a bird flu virus.

The report noted that commercial flocks raised outdoors and backyard flocks are at greater risk of contact with wild birds infected with avian influenza. These include poultry certified by the USDA as organically raised, which means turkeys and chickens that had access to outdoor space.

• Pandemic influenza vaccines for humans can be made using several technologies, but the most common approach relies on growing virus cultures in fertilized chicken eggs. The Department of Health and Human Services has a stockpile of influenza vaccines supplied by four companies, the report notes, but only one company has an egg-based vaccine manufacturing facility in the United States.

In the event of an influenza pandemic, the government may not be able to rely on foreign countries to allow exports of pandemic vaccine, the report warns. “Therefore, the U.S. government considers the one U.S.-based company as the only dependable manufacturer for producing egg-based vaccine for rapid pandemic mitigation,” it says.

HHS has had a three-year, $42 million contract with that company to protect the egg-supply chain and ensure a supply of vaccine-quality fertilized eggs. The contract expires in September, according to the report, which does not identify the company or its location. HHS officials and company representatives told the GAO that the company controls the risk of bird flu by limiting the density of birds on each farm that provides it with eggs and by periodically testing the flocks for avian influenza. While the 2014 and 2016 outbreaks did not affect this egg supply, a previous outbreak of highly dangerous avian influenza caused the deaths of laying hens and reduced the company’s supply of eggs by about 50 percent, the report says.

• One way to track the potential for the spread of avian influenza is to look for the virus in pigs, which act as an intermediate host or “mixing vessel” in which flu viruses can recombine to pose new threats to humans. In 2009, H1N1 swine flu caused a global pandemic. But funding for a voluntary surveillance program that gathers data on the types of influenza viruses circulating in pigs will run out of money by Sept. 30, the report says.

The Agriculture program, which is the only federal source of data for influenza surveillance in pigs, relies on $25 million transferred from HHS. But the Trump administration’s preliminary budget proposal for fiscal 2018 cuts Agriculture’s budget by 21 percent and that of HHS by 18 percent.

• The Agriculture Department, which is responsible for preventing, controlling and eradicating diseases from poultry and livestock, has taken hundreds of corrective actions since the 2014 and 2016 bird flu outbreaks but has not evaluated their impact. In those outbreaks, for example, states and poultry producers encountered barriers to transporting bird carcasses to landfills. Federal officials provided guidance and training to help producers and states develop disposal plans but never assessed whether either was effective.

The department, which reviewed a draft of the report, said it agreed with the GAO’s recommendation for it to develop a plan for evaluating completed corrective actions.

The GAO report was requested by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. In a statement, its investigations subcommittee chairman,  Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), and ranking Democrat, Diana DeGette (Colo.) said: “We know the devastating impacts of a global pandemic. Now it’s up to the Department of Agriculture to make sure we are prepared and have a plan to combat this threat. Further, ensuring the effectiveness of their plans and procedures are is just as important as the plans and procedures themselves.”

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Deadly Bird Flu Strain H7N9 Could be Next Pandemic

A CDC Scientist harvests H7N9 virus that has been grown for sharing with partner laboratories for research purposes. Photo: CDC

It’s been a century since the last worldwide influenza pandemic. The Spanish Influenza of 1918 spread across the globe in the waning days of World War I, killing tens of millions of people.

The next pandemic-level strain could be brewing in China, according to health officials. It’s a bird flu strain that has demonstrated 41 percent mortality in recent epidemics. Currently in its fifth epidemic, it’s become more widespread than ever – and it’s changing, according to world health officials.

The good news is that the H7N9 virus has so far shown limited human-to-human transmission. The bad news is that this fifth epidemic of the influenza strain, though mostly transmitted by poultry, is the largest yet.

“The H7N9 virus continues to have the greatest potential to cause a pandemic of known emerging influenza A viruses, and H7N9 viruses are considered to be the influenza A virus with the greatest potential public health impact,” the CDC recently announced.

Last week the World Health Organization reported 623 infections in humans,. The total cumulative number of infections to date is 1,421 since the strain was identified in 2013.

The first four epidemics proved how virulent the virus truly is, according to international authorities. From the first four epidemics, 88 percent of patients came down with pneumonia, 68 percent were admitted to an intensive care unit – and a full 41 percent died.

The fifth epidemic also appears to have diverged into two distinct lineages, from the Pearl River Delta and the Yangtze River Delta. The strain has changed ultimately at the molecular level – and for the worse, according to the CDC.

“Samples from the fifth epidemic demonstrate that these viruses contain a four-amino acid insertion in a host protease cleavage site in the HA protein that is characteristic of highly-pathogenic avian influenza viruses,” they write.

But there are positive developments. Several candidate vaccine viruses are in development. Most importantly so far, almost all the human infections have been linked to exposure to poultry, they added.

“Although some limited human-to-human spread continues to be identified, no sustained human-to-human H7N9 transmission has been observed,” they write.

CDC and the World Health Organization are not warning travelers yet. But they said that monitoring continues, and that they will issue safeguards and cautionary recommendations when appropriate.

“CDC, China and global health partners will continue to closely monitor the H7N9 virus situation in China and will continue to conduct risk assessments as the situation evolves,” they concluded. “CDC does not have any new or special recommendations for the U.S. public at this time regarding H7N9. CDC will keep you updated. Stay informed.”

This past flu season, tens of millions of birds were culled in Asia, but that was mostly due to the H5N6 strain, which was more prevalent last year than the H7N9.