USDA responds to poultry bans

by Erica Shaffer
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WASHINGTON – The US Department of Agriculture is taking steps to counter bans on imports of US poultry and poultry products.

South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore were the first countries to impose temporary restrictions on imports of US poultry and poultry products. The bans came after USDA confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza in Washington State and Oregon.

USDA reported two separate H5 strains in Washington State: H5N2 in northern pintail ducks, and H5N8 in captive Gyrfalcons that were fed hunter-killed wild birds. During the same week, Oregon activated a multi-agency response after the discovery of highly pathogenic H5N8 avian influenza in a flock of domestic birds in Winston, Ore. USDA reported the findings to the World Animal Health Organization (OIE) as required.

"OIE trade guidelines call on countries to base trade restrictions on sound science and, whenever possible, limit restrictions to those animals and animal products within a defined region that pose a risk of spreading disease of concern," USDA said in a statement. "Unfortunately, some countries have decided to place far more restrictive measures than necessary on US poultry, including, in a few instances, bans on imports of all US poultry and poultry products. We disagree with these actions and are taking a number of steps to address them and help support the US poultry industry."

The agency is in communication with US trading partners to provide more information on avian influenza cases in Oregon and Washington State. USDA also is sharing information on surveillance for avian influenza.

"We will press trading partners in the coming days to bring their import restrictions in line with OIE guidelines and the information we have provided them," USDA added.

USDA officials noted that none of the strains have been found in commercial poultry, and there is no immediate public health concern with either of the viruses.
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