THE PHILIPPINES has temporarily banned poultry imports from the Russian Federation after that country reported the world’s first case of human transmission of H5N8 highly pathogenic avian influenza (bird flu).
In a memorandum order signed on Feb. 26, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar suspended imports from Russia of domestic and wild birds and their products, including poultry meat, day-old chicks, eggs, and semen.
He also suspended the processing, evaluation, and issuance of sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances for such commodities from Russia.
Reuters reported on Feb. 20 that Russia’s consumer health regulator Rospotrebnadzor announced the world’s first case of H5N8 passed on from birds to humans.
According to Anna Popova, head of Rospotrebnadzor, seven workers at a poultry plant in Astrakhan were infected with H5N8 during an outbreak at the plant in December, but added that the outbreak did not spread.
Bird flu can be passed to humans via direct contact with infected live or dead poultry. Previous reported human transmissions were confirmed for other bird flu strains such as H5N1 and H7N9.
On Feb. 26, the World Health Organization said the risk of human-to-human transmission is low based on current available information, since all close contacts of the cases in Russia were monitored and showed no signs of clinical illness.
Jesus C. Cham, president of the Meat Importers and Traders Association, said the ban on Russian poultry imports will not have an impact on supply.
“It has no effect whatsoever. But the Department of Agriculture should have banned the affected zone and not the entire country. The approaches are inconsistent,” Mr. Cham said in a mobile phone message.
Chicken imports from Russia amounted to 28,000 kilograms as of Jan. 31, equivalent to 0.2% of the country’s total chicken imports of 16.94 million kilograms so far, according to the Bureau of Animal Industry. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave