H5N1 Found In
Quarantined Parrot In UK
From Patricia Doyle, PhD
Hello Jeff - How is this for a coincidence...
"Little Warley, Essex, is home to Pegasus Birds, a tropical bird specialist which is thought to be linked to the quarantine centre where a parrot carrying the lethal H5N1 strain of the disease died on 16 Oct 2005.
The shop is opposite the abattoir that reported the 1st case of foot-and-mouth disease in the 2001 outbreak."
From ProMED-mail
Parrot Infected With H5N1 In Quarantine Facility
By David Rose and Valerie Elliott
The Times - UK
A village sparked its 2nd national public health scare in 5 years yesterday as the 1st case of the deadly avian flu virus found in Britain was traced to a private bird importer.
Little Warley, Essex, is home to Pegasus Birds, a tropical bird specialist which is thought to be linked to the quarantine centre where a parrot carrying the lethal H5N1 strain of the disease died on 16 Oct 2005.
The shop is opposite the abattoir that reported the 1st case of foot-and-mouth disease in the 2001 outbreak.
Brett Hammond, the owner of Pegasus Birds, was convicted of VAT fraud and jailed for 18 months at Knightsbridge Crown Court in February 1997. The sentence was reduced to 12 months on appeal. He also featured in a BBC Radio 4 investigation about the importation of wild cockatoos from Indonesia that were sold in Britain as captive reared birds, which command higher prices.
Last night government vets confirmed they are investigating the possibility that H5N1 was present at the facility much earlier than thought.
On Sunday [23 Oct 2005] it announced its "working hypothesis" was that the bird had been infected by a batch of birds from Taiwan.
But yesterday authorities in Taiwan said there had been no reports of cases of H5N1 on the island and the British Government's theory had no "solid evidence" to back it up.
An alternative possibility is that birds in an earlier batch delivered to the facility could have had a "subclinical" infection and began secreting virus only after the stresses of quarantine. Contaminated droppings could have released the airborne virus that may have infected subsequent batches of birds from Taiwan and South America.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is now looking at what went into the quarantine before the parrot's arrival.
Although Defra refused to disclose the location of the avian flu case, the commuter-belt village came under suspicion. Little Warley, just east of the M25, is home to numerous pet centres, kennels, catteries and aquariums, as well as farms and expensive gated homes.
See map
Mr Hammond could not be contacted at his home in Upminster, near the centre, yesterday. Katrin Geller, his partner, said he was not in the house when The Times called.
She subsequently denied that Mr Hammond lived in the house. When asked if she could confirm that the parrot had died at Pegasus Birds, however, she said: "Defra have told us not to say anything to you about that."
Staff at the Pegasus Centre, which is the biggest importer of birds and reptiles in Essex, denied that the parrot had died there after a transfer from Heathrow. The bird originated from Surinam, South America, and entered the country in a consignment of 148 birds on 16 Sep 2005.
11 days later a batch of 218 birds from Taiwan were also moved into the quarantine premises, and 2 parrots were found dead last Thursday [20 Oct 2005]. Only one was found to contain the suspect H5 strain, though further tests on tissue samples from both birds confirmed the H5N1 strain.
Debby Reynolds, the Government's chief veterinary adviser, confirmed that the birds had been kept in Essex and had shared air space.
Defra declined to confirm or deny that Pegasus Birds was at the centre of the bird flu scare. A spokesman said: "As a matter of course we always discourage people from approaching any disease sites and will therefore not be naming the facility. It is not our practice to release personal information of the owner. Investigations continue into the circumstances surrounding the death of these birds."
From ProMED-mail
By Beth Gardiner
AP via Washington Post
Wild birds caught in the jungles of Africa and South America end up for sale in the pet shops and markets of Europe, part of an often illicit global trade that is raising increasing concern as a deadly avian flu spreads around the world.
Many fear the European Union's bird quarantine system is not tight enough to protect it from the illness and are calling for a ban on imports of live wild birds. Animal protection groups warn the conditions in which exotic birds are held and transported make them highly vulnerable to infection and ripe for carrying viruses across borders.
Britain on Sunday [23 Oct 2005] confirmed its 1st case of bird flu since 1992, a South American parrot that died of the disease in quarantine. The British environment agency's chief veterinarian has said the animal probably contracted the illness while being held in Britain with birds from Taiwan.
The parrot that died in British quarantine had the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu, which has spread across Asia and recently entered Europe. While H5N1 is easily transmitted among birds, it is difficult for humans to contract, and most of the more than 60 people killed in Asia had been in close contact with birds. Experts fear the virus could mutate into a form of flu contagious among humans and cause a pandemic.
The case in Britain raised worries for some about the EU-wide quarantine system, although Britain's environment agency said it showed protections were working.
Bird traders are generally responsible for holding their own animals for the mandatory 30-day quarantine, and animal protection groups say that can create a dangerous conflict of interest. The traders can make more money if they rush their stock to market before some of the birds die, as they often do, the groups warn.
They could also be tempted to cut corners by keeping the birds in poor conditions that can breed disease, said Arthur Lindley, director of science at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
EU rules also require exporters to quarantine birds for 21 days before shipping them to Europe. But it can be nearly impossible to know whether they have done so, Lindley said.
"All we can check at this end is a piece of paper," he said.
The society said it had found in an investigation that in Ghana, which exports parrots, there were no sealed quarantine areas, and birds were often shipped abroad after only a week. Species may be able to mix during quarantine and transport, raising the risk of diseases spreading, the society said.
Lindley said similar problems likely existed in other bird-exporting nations. Once birds enter the European Union and are released from quarantine, they can move freely within the 25-nation bloc.
Britain's environment agency said it believed the quarantine system worked well, though it said it was constantly seeking to boost protection. The government has asked the EU to ban the import of live wild birds and expects a decision within days.
3 of Britain's biggest bird trading companies declined to discuss bird flu quarantines, hanging up when The Associated Press called.
The world trade in exotic birds is vast. Elaine Toland, director of the Animal Protection Agency, an advocacy group, said between 2 million and 5 million birds are captured and sold legally each year. It's harder to estimate the number traded illicitly, but it may be nearly as high, she said.
About 65 percent of the legal trade ends up in Europe, Toland said. As many as 75 percent of the birds die between capture and sale. The others end up in European bird markets or shops and eventually become household pets.
They come from jungles around the world, where they are trapped by nets or with glue smeared on tree branches.
Traumatized by confined conditions and hours of travel in trucks and planes, their immune systems are often weak and unable to fight off illness. Cramped cages with species from around the world create the potential for diseases to spread quickly.
Advocates said illicit traders often piggyback on the legal industry, using fake paperwork and sending animals to bird markets around Europe.
The United States sharply restricted imports of exotic birds with the Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992, and most pet birds sold in America are now raised in captivity, a method considered more humane than trapping wild birds.
EU Expected To Ban Importation Of Wild Birds
By Sandra Laville
The Guardian - UK
The EU is expected to announce a temporary ban on the commercial importation of millions of wild birds today after a request from the British government for tougher action against avian flu.
The decision, which is due to be endorsed by EU veterinary experts, comes as experts in the UK called for a review of quarantine procedures in the wake of Britain's 1st case of infection from the most virulent strain of the virus.
Alan Jones, a leading avian vet, said there should be an urgent review of the quarantine conditions in the UK. "In my experience there should never have been a situation where birds from different continents shared the same air space," he said. "In this instance the Taiwanese birds have infected the South American parrot. I would question the wisdom at the moment anyway of having brought in birds from south-east Asia at all."
Debby Reynolds, the government's chief veterinary officer, said yesterday that quarantine regulations would be examined urgently, adding there were "quite a number of unanswered questions." Imported birds must spend at least 30 days in quarantine.
Quarantine facilities are privately run and licensed by Defra, but Duncan McNiven, an RSPB investigative officer, said the system was badly regulated. "What people often don't realise is that these birds aren't held in some state-of-the-art facility at Heathrow airport. They go as a job lot, often to the dealers themselves, and are quarantined in a shed in a backyard and a government vet will visit and take away dead birds to test. They are then sold on through pet shops and bird fairs in huge halls like the NEC with all these imported birds and lots of people crowded round."
Avian vets yesterday welcomed the EU decision expected today, to widen the ban on importing live birds to Europe. Import bans have already been imposed on live birds from areas where H5N1 has been confirmed, including Turkey, Romania and the Greek island of Chios.
According to the RSPCA up to 250 000 rare birds, some of which are under threat of extinction, are commercially imported into England and Wales each year under the convention on the international trade in endangered species, or Cites. Across Europe, between 2000 and 2003, some 2.74 million birds were imported under Cites from South America, China and Africa for sale in pet shops.
David Bowles of the RSPCA said the ban could not come too soon. "We have campaigned actively for this for the last 6 months because of the avian flu issue. But we also have asked for it for the last 15 years because the business is loaded with birds that have been traded almost to extinction."
Some vets, however, feared the import ban would fuel an already thriving underground trade in bird imports.
Professor Mac Johnston, the head of the Royal Veterinary College's animal and public health division, said "The question is whether it is right to stop the legal trade, knowing that at the same time you are giving the crime gangs a boost."
The most popular species for pet owners in the UK are the grey parrot, the Senegalese parrot and macaws. Bird enthusiasts can pay up to GBP 1000 (USD 1785) in a British pet shop for a wild-caught grey parrot.
General guidelines for the importation of captive birds into the UK are to be seen at
Generally, they are in line with the guidelines prevailing in many other countries, where there are similar problems and health risks.
Ideally, each consignment of captive birds should undergo a testing scheme, performed on a statistically representative number of samples, checking for several listed diseases such as avian influenza and Newcastle disease. Initial testing should be performed prior to the exportation from the country of origin; if the birds are approved for export, a 2nd test should be performed during the quarantine period following their arrival in the country of destination. They should be efficiently separated from other consignments and their air space, throughout the entire said period, with special attention to separation during the transfer through intermediate stations. An "all in -- all out" principle should be applied. Dead and sick birds should undergo immediate clinical and laboratory investigations. The birds, preferably identifiable, should be kept under veterinary observation throughout their quarantine period. Ideally, this means at least one daily visit by the official or authorised inspecting veterinarian, who should preferably be an avian disease specialist. Transportation and maintenance throughout the said periods should be carried out in disinfected vehicles/cages, preferably in state-managed facilities and not in privately owned ones, where conflict of interests are indeed a disturbing factor.
Though the said desirable requirements are not easy to implement, they are needed -- being proportional to the risks involved in the affected industry.- Mod.AS
Patricia A. Doyle, PhD
Please visit my "Emerging Diseases" message board.
Zhan le Devlesa tai sastimasa
Go with God and in Good Health



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