MoA to closely monitor China’s H5N1, no food contamination so far

The outbreak has worried many as the republic is still unsettled with its 2019-nCoV pandemic

by AFIQ AZIZ/ pic by AFP

THE Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry (MoA) is on its toes on the imports of chicken meat to the country amid the latest H5N1 bird flu outbreak in China.

The outbreak has worried many as the republic is still unsettled with its 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) pandemic which killed over 350 people and infected more than 17,300 persons throughout the world as of yesterday, according to data tracked by The New York Times.

On Saturday, Reuters reported an outbreak of a highly pathogenic strain of H5N1 bird flu at a farm in Shaoyang city of the southern province of Hunan.

However, MoA, through the Department of Veterinary Services Malaysia, said the country only brings in chicken meat from a processing factory located 1,313km away from the H5N1 ground zero in Liaocheng, Shangdong.

“The Chinese authority has already taken measures to control the H5N1 disease, and Malaysia does not import any live animal products from this (Shangdong) area,” the department said in a statement yesterday.

According to a Reuters report, China’s Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Affairs confirmed that the case occurred on a farm with 7,850 chickens, 4,500 of which have died of the bird flu.

The authorities have culled 17,828 poultries following the outbreak.

Malaysia’s veterinary department assured that so far, the samples of all poultries collected by the authority have been free of the H5N1 disease.

“We are stepping up on our precautionary measures where samples will be taken from all consignment for examination.

“The department will continuously monitor this situation and keep a close contact with the World Animal Health Organisation to get the latest update from time to time,” the department said.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), H5N1 is a type of influenza virus which causes a highly infectious, severe respiratory disease in birds called the avian influenza or “bird flu”.

It is hardly transmissible from person to person, but once infected, the mortality rate could reach 60%.

Almost all cases of H5N1 infection in people have been associated with close contact with infected live or dead birds, or H5N1-contaminated environments, WHO said.

Meanwhile, as a precautionary move to curb the spread of the nCoV, MoA Minister Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub has directed the Malaysian Quarantine and Inspection Services Department to conduct strict checks on imported food products from China at all entry points nationwide.

This is being done despite Malaysia not importing any food products from Wuhan, China, the epicentre of the nCoV disease.

There was also no evidence indicating the spread of the epidemic through food. However, security controls and inspections should be carried out.

Salahuddin said for now, there is no restriction on the import of food from the republic, despite WHO’s declaration on a public health emergency.

The country bills about RM3 billion of foods from mainland China, particularly chicken cuts, fruits and vegetables.