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Europe mulls global ban on bird imports
The European Union appear set to slap a global ban on imports of pet birds into Europe, amid rising alarm over the growing avian influenza threat from Asia.
EU veterinary experts in Brussels are studying proposals for an initial one-month ban on imports of pet birds such as parrots and other exotic species from the rest of the world.
Their meeting in Brussels came as EU farm ministers also mulled the latest worrying developments, including a new outbreak in China and a fourth death in Indonesia.
"We want to ensure that all member states are satisfactorily prepared," EU health commissioner Markos Kyprianou told EU lawmakers in Strasbourg on Tuesday.
The 25-nation EU has bolstered its defences against bird flu after the H5N1 lethal strain of the virus, which has killed over 60 people in Asia, was found in Turkey and Romania.
The sense of urgency was heightened further when British authorities confirmed at the end of last week that a parrot which died while in quarantine was infected with the deadly Asian strain.
In the latest attempt to stop the disease spreading the European Commission on Tuesday confirmed an EU ban on live poultry imports from Croatia, after a second outbreak occured there this week.
But more broadly the British parrot incident has spurred the EU to consider the ban on the import of birds to be sold as pets.
The EU's Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, which groups veterinary experts from all EU member states, was expected to announce their decision on the ban later Monday.
The EU's executive commission appeared confident that its proposals would be accepted -- in particular after they received the backing of Britain, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.
If agreed, birds could not be imported commercially to be used as pets although they could be brought in by individuals as their personal pets.
Under the commission's proposal, individuals could only import five birds as pets and would have to provide certificates proving that the birds were not infected.
"We feel that the main risk is through commercial imports, which are large scale imports," commission spokesman Philip Tod said. About 232,000 pet and exotic birds have been imported into the EU over the past three months.
Tod said that the commission had been hesitant to propose such a ban out of fear that it could prompt the emergence of black market but that it had changed its position in reaction to the rapid spread of bird flu in eastern Europe.
If the ban is confirmed, it would mark the latest EU action to try to halt the spread of bird flu after the series of outbreaks on the EU's eastern flank.
Revealed: how a Government blunder over quarantine fuelled bird flu crisis
Government vets have been criticised for advising private bird importers to mix consignments of birds from different parts of the world in the same quarantine facility.
Experts in European law said the regulations do not permit mixing of bird consignments from different countries because of the risks of spreading avian flu.
But that appears to have happened at a licensed quarantine facility in Essex where a consignment of parrots from South America was kept in the same quarantine unit as a consignment of exotic birds from Taiwan.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) reported on Monday that a parrot from Surinam was probably infected with the deadly H5N1 strain of avian flu when it was kept in quarantine with a separate consignment of birds from Taiwan...
Originally posted by soficrow
I mean, some migrating geese fly 1500 miles a day.
1/3 of recent batch of smuggled birds tested positive for H5N1 Fish and Wildlife
November 10, 2005: The danger that a mutated variety of avian flu (the H5N1 strain) could result in a devastating pandemic, has been widely reported. The focus of concern, however, has been the possibility that domestic poultry might serve as a vector for spreading the disease, with a somewhat lower level of concern about migratory birds. In fact, given increasing international monitoring of poultry and migratory birds, the real threat of an avian flu outbreak is likely to be as a result of bird smuggling.
There is an enormous international black market in birds. Most of the trade provides misguided animal lovers with rare or exotic specimens, but part of it goes to supply birds for cockfighting enthusiasts or forbidden treats such as the rare ortolan for hungry gourmets. The 330,000 birds that are legally imported into the U.S. every year go through a rigid quarantine system that included veterinary testing. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that between 80,000 and 100,000 more come in illegally, and thus without the rigid screening.
In a recent batch of smuggled birds tested by the Fish and Wildlife Service, about a third of the sample tested positive for H5N1...
Britain mulls permanent bird import ban
The British government is considering permanently banning the import of all captive birds other than poultry.
The European Union, hoping to halt the spread of bird flu, on Wednesday extended its ban on such imports until the end of January.
However, environment minister Ben Bradshaw said the government was contemplating going further.
"The government is considering the arguments for and against a permanent ban," he said, adding that the issue would be discussed with other countries in the coming months.
Bradshaw said that an exercise was held last week to test contingency plans for a possible spread of avian influenza.
The announcement comes two days after the government said that 53 finches from Taiwan had died in a British quarantine centre amid an outbreak of the most deadly strain of bird flu.
The birds, southeast Asian mesias, died last month of the highly pathogenic strain of H5N1, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said.
The discovery of the deadly strain of the bird flu virus in Croatia, Romania and Turkey stoked fears last month of the virus spreading to the EU, prompting member states to step up precautions.
The H5N1 strain since 2003 has killed more than 60 people in Asia who caught it from infected birds.
Scientists fear that a mutation of the virus may render it easily transmissible between humans, causing a global pandemic that could claim millions of lives.
Gov't Worried About Underground Routes That Could Spread Bird Flu
KSDK-Fears of a global killer flu, whether likely or not, have forced local, state, and federal officials to create pandemic emergency plans.
The I-Team recently obtained internal government documents that detail what officials aren't telling us. The documents detail the underground routes the virus is predicted to take to spread into North America.
One route poses a chilling threat to Missouri and Illinois. It involves animal swap meets where birds and other animals are bought and sold like items at a flea market.
Sunday, we took hidden cameras into what Illinois agriculture officials call an illegal animal swap meet. Experts tell the I-Team the majority of people who buy and sell at swap meets are legitimate.
But they also say swap meets provide the perfect venue for smugglers.
Parrots like majestic macaws typically cost more than $1,000. Legal birds come with papers proving where they were born. Some even have microchips implanted.
Birds are the third most popular pets, right behind dogs and cats...
Dr. Kersting said, "The risk is more through smuggled birds and birds coming into the country from affected parts of the world."
Dr. Kersting says birds sold at swap meets are one of his biggest concerns.
Sunday, our hidden camera photographed a swap meet at the Monroe County Fairgrounds in Waterloo, Illinois.
We saw all types of birds crammed into cages, sold from the backs of trucks, and loaded into trailers.
A woman we'll call "Sherry" used to be connected to the smuggling trade. She is now an undercover federal informant.
Sherry met us at the swap meet and says some of the chickens end up in restaurants.
Sherry went on to say, "These chicken yard sales are in every state. It's just a matter of time before something comes in."
In Missouri, anyone can operate a swap meet...
Last year, the federal government banned the sale of exotic birds from any country where officials detected avian influenza.
Mike Cooke is the assistant director of the World Bird Sanctuary in Valley Park. He is convinced exotic bird smuggling is a staggering concern when it comes to the spread of avian flu.
Cooke said, "It's almost inevitable it will happen."
Last week, the I-Team obtained an internal U.S Department of Interior briefing. The heading reads "HPAI: Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza --Not IF, But When."
According to the report, avian flu will likely spread into the states either through international commerce like poultry, contaminated materials, smuggling, or the pet and wildlife trade. The report also listed migratory birds and the potential for human-to-human transmission.
Mike Williams is the director for communicable disease control and emergency preparedness at the St. Louis County Health Department. At a recent pandemic planning seminar Williams said, " It will enter one of two ways, either through migratory birds, or smuggled birds. It's possible the smuggled bird might be the earlier event."
Avian Flu is also a concern for Mary Bradford, who owns the Tropics Exotic Bird Refuge outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. She wants federal authorities to do more to stop the black-market trade.
Bradford said, "We now have more smuggled birds coming into the United States than we do legal birds. I call them the bird Mafia."
United States Fish and Wildlife agents are trying to stop smugglers at airports and seaports. But, they're outnumbered. There are only 120 agents trying to inspect thousands of imports a day.
Bradford said the inability to handle bird smugglers "Could be a catastrophe in the making."
Experts can't link bird flu to migration
Bird flu appears more likely to wing its way around the globe by plane than by migrating birds.
Scientists have been unable to link the spread of the virus to migratory patterns, suggesting that the thousands of wild birds that have died, primarily waterfowl and shore birds, are not primary transmitters of bird flu.
If that holds true, it would suggest that shipments of domestic chickens, ducks and other poultry represent a far greater threat than does the movement of wild birds on the wing.
It also would underscore the need to pursue the virus at poultry farms and markets rather than in wild populations of birds if a possible pandemic is to be checked, U.S. and European experts said.