Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture has confirmed that 239 poultry farms have now tested positive for one of the four types of HP H5 avian flu (H5N2, H5N2 new, H5N8, H5N3 new) spreading across their island . Focus Taiwan reports that as of 6pm Sunday Evening among those farms includes `51 farms that were infected with H5N8, 15 with a new variant of H5N3 and 99 with a new variant of H5N2’.
In a significant development, the new H5N2 – a reassortant of the recently arrived H5N8 virus and an N2 subtype - has also moved from just infecting waterfowl, to infecting poultry as well.
This report from Channel News Asia:
TAIPEI: New avian flu strains H5N2 and H5N8 have spread from waterfowl to chickens in Taiwan for the first time.
The highly pathogenic viruses have infected chicken farms in Pingtung and Changhua counties of southern Taiwan, raising fears that the avian flu outbreak could get out of control.
Based on the latest data released by the Council of Agriculture, 239 poultry farms have been infected since the outbreak on Jan 9. The number of poultry dead or culled climbed past 650,000 on Monday (Jan 19). As the outbreak continues to spread among chickens, geese and ducks, that number is fast approaching 1 million.
Geese are the worst affected, with more than 30 per cent of the island's total population infected. But the numbers of infected ducks and chickens so far remain under control.
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How these highly pathogenic viruses have managed to spread so extensively in this short amount of time in a country well-versed in dealing with avian flu, and supposedly boasting excellent biosecurity, remains to be explained.
While focus right now is on containment, the post mortem review on all of this is likely to be very messy,
Already there are suggestions in the press that officials have ignored and failed to clean up low path (LPAI) outbreaks over the past 11 years, allowing these LPAI virus to evolve into HP viruses (for a long media diatribe (in Chinese), see IDN-NEWS Legislator Chen Bao-ji dereliction of major combat epidemic curse turn).
This is not the first time we’ve heard this accusation, as three years ago the director-general of the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (BAPHIQ) resigned after it was revealed he delayed action on an outbreak of what turned out to be HPAI H5N2 (see Asia One story Taiwan agency intentionally delays action on H5N2: Recording).
A far less incendiary report comes from RFA.org.
Taiwan bird flu spread of the epidemic spread, in addition to migratory birds, waterfowl, land birds infected, vaccination unit confirmed Monday near the central Taiwan, Miaoli County, a poultry farm finds three dead, "resident birds" bulbul, also diagnosed with novel H5N3, officials initially judged, migratory birds may have been infected, and the analysis, the recent bird flu geographical distribution, consistent with the migration paths of migratory birds.
Epidemic prevention unit in the past few days in transit point for migratory birds the virus into Taiwan, Council of Agriculture chairman Chen Bao-ji Monday to face the Legislative Yuan KMT and DPP's question "Put all the blame for the outbreak of migratory birds, migratory bird called too heavy" when frankly, after the 2003 invasion of Taiwan is no H5N2 cleaned. (Editor: Hu Hanjiang)
While the Channel News Asia story quotes officials as saying less than 1% of the nation’s poultry has been affected, it is still early days, and it may be some time before the full extent of this outbreak is quantified.
In an attempt to halt the spread, beginning tomorrow all `farms, markets, slaughter houses and vehicles transporting poultry’ are ordered to be disinfected over a 72-hour period.