|Seized `Vaccine' in Wine bottles - Credit BAPHIQ|
Although a victim of sporadic avian flu outbreaks for many years, HPAI H5N8 arrived in the island nation of Taiwan in January of 2015, immediately spun off several reassorted HPAI H5 viruses - and together - would infect more than 1,000 farms over the next 12 months.
While the level of bird flu activity dropped in 2016, and is even further reduced this year, well over 100 outbreaks have been reported since January, including the first detection of H5N6 on the island.In Taiwan, as in most of the world, culling and quarantine are the preferred methods of controlling avian flu. Unlike in neighboring China, and a few countries like Vietnam and Egypt, avian flu vaccines for poultry are not allowed.
For at least a dozen years the OIE has warned that vaccination of poultry cannot be considered a long-term solution to combating avian flu. And that “Any decision to use vaccination must include an exit strategy, i.e. conditions to be met to stop vaccination”. – OIE on H7N9 Poultry Vaccines.
Unfortunately, the handful of countries that currently allow use of poultry AI vaccines have shown little signs of having that `exit strategy'. China, 12 years into their vaccination program, two weeks ago announced plans to test a New H7N9 Poultry Vaccine In Two Provinces starting late this month.Faced with this reality, a couple of years ago the OIE - while still discouraging their use - softened the language in their recommendations to allow:
`In short, vaccination should be implemented when culling policies cannot be applied either because the disease is endemic and therefore widely present, or the infection in affected animals is too difficult to detect.'
As we’ve discussed previously (see PLoS Bio: Imperfect Poultry Vaccines, Unintended Results & The HPAI Poultry Vaccine Dilemma), despite more than a decade of heavy use, poultry AI vaccines have proven to be less than a panacea for bird flu.
Countries that have gone the vaccine route (notably China, Egypt, Vietnam, and Indonesia) continue to battle the virus. One could argue (at least in Egypt & China), that their AI problems are worse now than when they started.
The problem is that as the avian viruses evolve, poultry vaccines become increasingly less effective; often only masking the symptoms of infection.That can allow viruses to spread silently among flocks, to continue to reassort and evolve, and potentially lead to the emergence new subtypes of avian flu (see Subclinical Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Virus Infection among Vaccinated Chickens, China).
Twelve years ago, the world had only one HPAI H5 virus of concern; H5N1. Now we have at least a half dozen subtypes (H5N1, H5N2, H5N3, H5N6, H5N5, H5N8, H5N9), with literally dozens of genotypes between them.The 2015 study Recombinant H5N2 Avian Influenza Virus Strains In Vaccinated Chickens found `These results are in agreement with previous work indicating that AIVs can continue genetic evolution under vaccination pressure'.
Which is why so few countries allow their use. In the fall of 2015, as desperate poultry farmers lobbied for vaccines, Taiwan's Council Of Agriculture strongly Warned Against the Importation & Use Of AI Vaccines.
Beyond the illegalities, the HPAI H5 viruses in Taiwan originated from Korea, and were expected to be a poor match to the Chinese R5 vaccine.While not completely ruling out use of an AI vaccine in the future, the COA reiterated that AI vaccines were prohibited in Taiwan, and there were currently no plans to introduce them. They then warned of severe penalties for the illicit manufacture, import, processing, trafficking and use of any illegal animal drugs.
Fast forward to today, and we learn - via the COA - that 18 boxes of `poultry vaccine' were intercepted - bound for Taiwan - at the Kinmen airport in Fujian Province. While there is considerable doubt as to the authenticity of this `vaccine' (testing is underway), when arrested, the smuggler claimed that it was `duck vaccine'.
'Tis a sad day, indeed, when you can't trust the word of a drug smuggler. But I digress. . . .The purported `vaccine' was repackaged into more than 200 recycled Kaoliang (sorghum wine) bottles - and according to local media reports - was discovered after one of the bottles broke, and a custom's official realized it didn't smell like alcohol.
First the (translated) press release, then I'll return with a brief post script.
Seized the mainland smuggling suspected animal vaccines, called on the industry to try to defensively, so as not to spread the disease
(Hereinafter referred to as the Prevention and Control Bureau) on June 24, said the Golden Gate Aviation Police found that people to air cargo delivery 18 boxes (a total of 210 bottles) Golden Gate sorghum wine to Taiwan, one box after the break out There is no alcoholic liquid, so check and notify the Office of the Office of the Kaohsiung Branch Kinmen quarantine police station investigation, after the sea inspection center in the central area of the inspection team Kinmen mobile investigation team preliminary investigation, the public said the bottle filled with liquid system from Continental smuggled ducks with vaccines (what kind of virus or bacteria are not clear). The inspection team on the same day the people transferred to the Kinmen and Quarantine Recruitment, the relevant samples have been sampled by the Golden Gate quarantine station, in this (24) sent someone to send animal health test animal animal inspection branch identification.
The anti-crime bureau states that, according to the Animal Drug Administration Act, animal drugs are not approved by the unauthorized importation of doping, manufacturing or import of animal doping, at 1 year to 7 years imprisonment, and NT $ 450 And shall also be sentenced to a fine of not less than 6 months but not more than five years and shall be fined not more than NT $ 5 million.
The anti-crime bureau states that smuggling or the use of illegal animal vaccines has not been tested and the quality is not guaranteed. It can not only prevent the epidemic, it is more likely to spread the epidemic. The council will continue to cooperate with the prosecution and prosecution agencies, check illegal, to prevent blocking animals into the domestic market with doping.
While this appears to be an amateurish attempt to smuggle a potentially dangerous vaccine into Taiwan, had a bottle not broken, it is very possible it would have been successful. One can't help but wonder about how many other shipments, either real or counterfeit, have already gotten through.
Nature's laboratory is fully capable of creating the next pandemic virus. We scarcely need to be lending it a helping hand.