EAST calls for release of bird flu information

By Zane Kheir, The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST) Chief Executive Chu Tseng-hung (���W��) stated during a press conference yesterday morning that the government should release solid scientific evidence pertaining to the H5 strains of bird flu and stop blaming the problem on migrant birds.

Along with Chu, National Taiwan University College of Public Health (COPH) Professor King Fu-chun (���ŬK) stated that the Council of Agriculture’s (COA, �A�e�|) solution has been to blame migratory birds from outside Taiwan, without providing data showing the genetic makeup of the H5N2, H5N3 and H5N8 strains. Furthermore, EAST and King accused some private businesses of using illegal vaccines to treat H5 strains of bird flu. EAST representatives and King requested that the government make the information public in order for residents and members of the scientific community to understand how the virus has evolved and how it tends to spread. EAST showed diagrams of information on an H5N2 outbreak originating in Mexico in 1994 and stated that it appears to be similar to the strain found in Taiwan. EAST recommended that the government form a special bird flu epidemic research inquiry team to pass on information to the public about virus transmission, promote sanitation and animal protection and provide effective disease prevention measures.

King used information from a report published by Hong Kong University (HKU) indicating that 80 percent of samples taken between 2012-2013 from chicken blood contained high amounts of H9N2 antibodies. Chu also cited some other successful case studies of old H5N2 bird flu outbreaks in the United States and Canada and indicated that Taiwan can learn from procedures in these countries. ‘Seriously doubt’ Prior Existence of H9N2: COA In response to EAST’s comments, the COA stated yesterday that it had so far not found or seized any illegal vaccinations from private businesses. In regard to claims that the H9N2 virus had been present in Taiwan prior to the outbreak, the COA stated it views this claim with ��serious doubt.��

Head of the COA’s Animal Health Research Institute Tsai Hsiang-jung (���V�a) stated that the COA has also conducted sampling at the same poultry wholesale market as researchers from HKU and did not find any significant content of H9N2 antibodies.

Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (BAPHIQ) chief Chang Shu-hsien (�i�Q��) stated that BAPHIQ inspected over 40,000 samples in 2013 and 27,000 last year, none of which had any traces of the H9N2 virus. Chang also explained that these types of bird flu viruses tend to mutate quite fast, and the development of a vaccine requires samples of the live virus. In regard to the H7N9 sub-strain found in the wetlands of Kaohsiung City’s Chiading Township (�X�_), Chang said that BAPHIQ has evidence that this sub-strain is different from the one that previously broke out in Shanghai and was transmitted to humans. Tsai also followed up by saying that this sub-strain of H7N9 is a low-degree pathogen and people should not be concerned that it will be transmitted to humans.