Smuggling spreads AI strains through Asia

18-08-2006 | |

Smuggled poultry is likely to blame for the presence of a Chinese strain of bird flu in Thailand and Laos, which was partly responsible for recent outbreaks in those countries, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.

The presence of the strain, which had been unique to southern China, was confirmed in poultry outbreaks that occurred last month in the northeastern Thai province of Nakhon Phanom and the Laotian capital of Vientiane, the FAO in Bangkok said in a statement.

“We are aware that there is a lot of trade still going on, mainly smuggling, of course, of chicken and poultry products,” said Diderik de Vleeschauwer, FAO spokesman in Bangkok.

“The movement and trade of animals and poultry products is the main reason for the spreading of disease.” He added that migratory birds are not to blame because they are not on the move in Southeast Asia this time of year.

The samples have been sent to an international reference laboratory in Australia for further analysis. The FAO also warned countries in the region to step up awareness and surveillance as more outbreaks surface in other countries.

“Continuing outbreaks in China, recurrence in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, and the steady march of the disease in Indonesia, underline the need for heightened vigilance in other Asian countries,” He Changchui, FAO’s regional representative for the Asia-Pacific, said in a statement.

Bird flu re-emerged in Thailand last month for the first time this year, and Laos reported its first outbreak in more than two years.