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Monday, March 20, 2006

Bird Flu and Poultry Trade

Great op-ed in the International Herald Tribune.

Why can't we get more news stories and investigative reporting about legal and illegal poultry shipments? Check out this news story about poultry smuggling into Vietnam (presumably) from China. Hard to control H5N1 avian influenza with such free-flowing movements of birds from potentially infected areas.

And here is a horrific story of the result of poultry smuggling from Israel into Palestine:

"Near the West Bank city of Hebron, Palestinian customs officials intercepted two trucks carrying poultry which had entered illegally. Palestinian officials said they would kill the 2,600 chickens in the trucks.

Palestinian workers later started burying the chickens alive in a pit by dumping soil on them with bulldozers.

“We want to get rid of these chickens because they came from Israel, which is an infected area,” deputy Hebron commander Musbah Al Baba said. “We do not know for sure they are infected, we are just taking precautionary measures.” Smuggling into Palestinian areas has grown due to demand for cheaper supplies of livestock."

Many officials claim that poultry or bird smuggling in the US is such a small enterprise, that it doesn't constitute a major pathway for H5N1 into the country. However, based on how few overseas shipments are actually inspected, and that bird shipments are not unheard of, such claims seem as at least as premature and irresponsible as statements indicating that wild birds are the primary pathway by which the virus will arrive in the US.

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