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PIA Press Release

DA bans bird, poultry from Belgium, British Columbia

Tacloban City (February 23) -- In its bid to keep the Philippines avian-flu free, the Department of Agriculture has temporarily banned the importation of on the entry of birds, poultry and their products from British Columbia and Belgium, following official reports from the Office International des Epizooties (OIE) confirming outbreaks of the disease in these areas.

The OIE has confirmed a bird flu outbreak in a turkey farm in Abbotsford, British Columbia and two such occurrences in a geese breeding farm in Buggenhout, East Flanders and a farm for ornamental birds and poultry in Bocholt, Limburg, which are both in Belgium.

A top DA official said in his directive, that the ban and other emergency measures were necessary to protect human health and the poultry industry in the Philippines, which has remained free of bird flu ever since the H5N1 strain of this virus struck back in Asia six years ago.

It would be recalled that the Philippines, along with Brunei and Singapore, are the only Avian Influenza-free countries in Southeast Asia.

In a related story, a Nepal health official reported that a deadly strain of bird flu virus has been found poultry in southeastern Nepal just days after officials declared the Himalayan nation free of the disease..

Nepal Agriculture Ministry spokesman Hari Dahal informed that workers have begun to slaughter 10,000 chickens in Sarnamati village, about 400 kilometers southeast of Katmandu, to prevent the H5N1 virus from spreading further.

The virus first emerged in Nepal's poultry last month, but no human cases have been reported.

Meanwhile, Vietnam reported its first bird-flu death this year. A doctor said a 23-year-old woman from northern Vietnam died of the H5N1 virus, after battling with the disease for three weeks. The report stated that the woman became ill after slaughtering and eating chickens her family was raising. Five other family members who had also eaten the chicken showed no symptoms.

While the H5N1 virus remains hard for humans to catch, at least 254 worldwide have died from it since 2003. Scientists are monitoring the virus for its potential to mutate to be easily spread among humans, which could set off an influenza pandemic infecting millions. (PIA 8) [top]

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