UK government vets have received flak for advising private bird importers for keeping different birds in the same quarantine facility. In fact, Shadow environment secretary Oliver Letwin questioned as to why quarantine procedures were “so lax that birds from different continents are kept together, test samples are pooled”.
A licensed quarantine facility in Essex had a consignment of parrots from South America which were kept in the same quarantine unit as a flock of exotic birds from Taiwan. As per European regulations, mixing of bird consignments from different countries is not permitted because it invites risk of avian flu.
Though, a senior government vet said mixing of bird consignments was allowed under EU quarantine regulations, Cristiana Senni of the World Parrot Trust countered by saying that the EU regulations do allow for mixing consignments of birds. Ms. Senni added: “This, of course, is an obvious requirement, otherwise the whole principle of quarantine would be useless, as this latest incident showed”.
Officials at Defra (Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) are investigating the events that led to the case of the H5N1 virus at a quarantine facility in Essex.
Environment Secretary, Margaret Beckett, told MPs on Wednesday that Britain was planning to introduce new measures to stem the spread of bird flu. Among them one includes keeping poultry indoors.
Meanwhile, bird markets and fairs in the UK are going to be banned following a move by the EU which decided to prohibit the importation of exotic birds into Europe.
It is also averred that some other birds which died while in quarantine may have also been infected with the H5N1 virus. It is reported that 32 birds which died before October 16th, the day when first parrot diagnosed of dying of bird flu, are being kept in storage. Ms. Beckett said: “Initial tests, which have not yet been validated, indentified that H5 is present in some of these birds.”