Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Avian Flu in Gombak

There's been another occurrence of the deadly avian flu (H5N1 strain) in Malaysia. Fourty kampung (free-range) chickens have died since last week and the Veterinary Services Department was quick to cull over a hundred of the remaining birds in the affected Gombak area to keep things in check.

Bird flu in Gombak

KUALA LUMPUR: The Government confirmed last night that the deaths of 40 kampung (free range) chicken at four villages along Jalan Genting-Klang here last week were caused by the H5N1 strain of the avian influenza.

Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the case was an isolated one and that the people need not worry as there was no human fatality.

"Tests by the Veterinary Laboratory in Petaling Jaya and the Veterinary Research Institute in Ipoh confirmed the cause of death was due to the H5N1 strain," he said in a statement to the Bernama news agency yesterday.

News of the avian flu in Malaysia sent stocks of poultry companies on the Bursa Malaysia plummeting, with a few counters falling by as much as 20% (see StarBiz for the full report).

Muhyiddin, who is in Dubai where he is heading a trade mission, said all 110 chickens in Kampung Pasir Wardieburn, Taman Danau Kota, Pekan Danau Kota and Kampung Belakang JPJ had been culled.

"The Veterinary Services Department, Kuala Lumpur City Hall, and the Health Ministry had initiated an immediate and integrated action to control the disease from spreading," he added.

Besides culling the chicken, the integrated action also included setting up checkpoints and patrolling the roads in the affected areas to prevent chickens from being moved out, he added.

He said all chicken coops in the area would be disinfected, and urged the public to contact the department if there were any large-scale deaths of any types of birds.

Selangor and Federal Territory Poultry Traders Association adviser Datuk Dr Lee Chong Meng said the public should not be unduly alarmed as the Government had acted swiftly to deal with the affected chickens in Gombak.

Dr Lee said it was possible that the villagers smuggled in fighting roosters from Thailand and that these birds might have infected the kampung chickens.

He stressed that the public should not overreact and that chickens were still safe for consumption as no commercial chickens were involved.

Meanwhile, Singapore is suspending poultry and egg imports from Selangor with immediate effect, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority said in a statement yesterday.

The current suspension will not affect poultry imports from Johor, Malacca, Perak and Negri Sembilan, which are free from the deadly avian flu virus.

The Singaporean authority said that although five chicken broiler farms in Selangor were permitted to supply poultry to Singapore, there had been no exports from these farms since August 2004.

This is the second time there had been H5N1 cases reported in the country in the past three years. The last case was in Kota Baru in 2004, when several fighting roosters smuggled in from Thailand died of the disease.

This news came as a surprise to many Malaysians when it made front-page news in most of the national dailies yesterday. The night before that, I've read from several blogs concerning the possibility of bird flu in the Selangor region after Singapore announced they will stop importing chickens from the Selangor region indefinitely.

Teams from the Health Ministry have screened 916 people for bird flu symptoms today. Seven people, including five children have been warded, with their test results to be known on tomorrow. The Veterinary Services Dept has set up a bird flu operations centre for the public to report the deaths of birds in their areas. The centre's hotline is 03-88702041.

It is normal to expect that many Malaysians will shun chickens, ducks and all birds for the time-being due to this development. Even eating eggs will also be a cause for concern since the shell will likely have faeces on it. Fortunately, cooking food at over 70 degrees Celcius will kill the H5N1 virus. Runny yolk lovers would have to switch to properly cooked eggs for the time-being just to be safe. During food preparation, it's advisable to wear gloves and wash your hands, equipment and surrounding areas thoroughly after that. I seriously hope it will be contained and will not become some outbreak as it will definitely have many drastic implications on our country's economy if it does develop into an outbreak.

It seems that there's hardly any food safe for consumption nowadays. There's the Mad Cow disease for beef, Nipah virus for pork, mercury poisoning for captured fisheries and now the bird flu for poultry products. Should we all become vegetarians then? Sigh...I'll definitely miss my meat. :(

(picture from The Star)

No comments:

Post a Comment