Five countries ban Dutch poultry over bird flu
AMSTERDAM, Aug 9 (Reuters) Five countries have banned imports of Dutch poultry and poultry products after the Netherlands found a low-pathogenic H7 bird flu strain at a farm last week, the Dutch agriculture ministry said today.
The countries, which have imposed blanket or partial bans on Dutch poultry imports are Russia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong, a ministry spokeswoman said.
Last week, Dutch authorities culled all the 25,000 chickens at the infected farm in the central region of Gelderse Vallei and sealed off another 130 farms for testing to prevent a major outbreak in one of the world's top poultry exporting countries.
Earlier today, the ministry said authorities have not discovered any new cases of the strain after conducting tests at the closed farms and so have eased measures meant to limit the spread of the disease.
The import bans are a blow to the Dutch poultry industry, Europe's second biggest after France. The Netherlands sells abroad live birds, meat and eggs worth about 1.5 billion euros a year mainly to Germany, the UK, Belgium, France, Ukraine, Japan, Poland and Russia.
Officials have said that the detected H7 strain is less dangerous than the one that hit the Netherlands in 2003 but measures were needed as it might mutate into a more aggressive form.
The Netherlands suffered a devastating outbreak of an H7N7 avian flu strain in 2003 that led to the culling of 30 million birds, about a third of the poultry flock.
H7 bird flu in its highly pathogenic form can kill large numbers of birds and can occasionally infect people, although it is rarely fatal in humans. The 2003 outbreak in the Netherlands infected around 90 people, including a veterinarian who died.
The Netherlands has never reported a case of the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu strain found in several other European Union countries.
REUTERS MQA kp2120