January 14, 2015 – New avian flu strains H5N2 and H5N8 have spread with speed across Taiwan. Sixty-five poultry farms in seven counties and cities were found with infected poultry yesterday, almost double the 38 farms on Monday.
Agricultural authorities there have warned the number is likely to rise.
Taiwan’s latest outbreak of the avian flu virus may be the most virulent that has infected waterfowl. The highly pathogenic strains of H5N2 and H5N8 have led to the culling of about 16,500 geese and ducks.
The new strain of H5N2 is the first of its kind in the world. It is different from the homegrown H5N2 strain found in more than 120,000 chickens culled last week in Pingtung, southern Taiwan.
Authorities said it could be a hybrid of H5N8 and H5N2 strains, found in South Korea last year, and the H5N2 subtype discovered four years ago in China’s northeastern Jilin Province.
Minister of the Council of Agriculture Chen Bao-ji, said: “In terms of chickens, we have low pathogenic avian flu virus. These can still be consumed after proper testing. But H5N8 and H5N2 are highly pathogenic, which requires immediate action to eradicate.”
The Council of Agriculture said the number of infected geese and ducks is likely to increase. To stop the spread of the virus, the Council has approved the culling of geese and ducks as soon as they test positive for any of the H5 strains.
There have not been any reports of chickens being infected with the two new virus strains. However, the Council said H5N8 could be transmitted to chickens, and poultry farmers have to separate waterfowl from chickens.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong has banned egg imports from Taiwan.