Vet Division to test for bird flu
Members of the Veterinary Services Division in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries are to embark on a bird-trapping expedition with officers from the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), to test for the highly contagious virus which causes avian influenza, or bird flu.
The testing will take place in wetlands and other areas that are popular nesting sites for migratory birds from North America that usually flee the winter climes some time around October each year, making the return trip about the end of March.
Dr Osbil Watson, chief veterinarian in the Veterinary Services Division, told The Gleaner this was an extra precautionary measure, following its decision to ban the importation of all poultry, poultry products and poultry by-products that are not fully cooked, as well as hatching eggs and pet foods originating in the American states of Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, Minnesota, California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, and British Columbia, Canada, until further notice.
The list of banned products includes, but is not limited to, live birds and hatching eggs, egg yolks, egg whites, poultry meat (except fully cooked, canned, commercially sterile products), raw pet foods containing poultry, and feathers/offal.
"It is out of an abundance of caution that we want to ensure that we monitor these sites," Watson disclosed yesterday. "Should we pick up anything, we'll tell people', 'Don't go in that area because we don't want you to transmit anything back' or we'll say to the poultry farmers, 'Ensure that you bird-proof your coop'."
He added: "At times, what happens is that these birds, they will mingle with our birds like the pigeon or the cattle egret that may go into those areas or pass through those areas. And even people might go in and hunt like, duck, and bring back home."
Said Watson: "The current virus is not known yet to affect humans. But the thing is, if you go out there and hunt a duck, it may be infected but not necessarily get sick, and you inadvertently bring home the virus and infect birds in the backyard operations."
Among the areas targeted for bird trapping are Hellshire and Old Harbour in St Catherine; sections of southern Clarendon, including Salt Pond Road; as well as Parrottee, Westmoreland.