Singapore suspends poultry imports from Tennessee

Chickens are seen in a livestock market before the market asked to stop trading on March 1 in prevention of bird flu transmission, in China on Feb 22, 2017.
Chickens are seen in a livestock market before the market asked to stop trading on March 1 in prevention of bird flu transmission, in China on Feb 22, 2017.

CHICAGO (Bloomberg, REUTERS) - A deadly form of bird flu has been confirmed in a southern Tennessee chicken flock, prompting Singapore and South Korea to suspend the imports of live poultry from the US state.

The highly pathogenic H7 avian influenza was detected in a chicken breeder flock of 73,500 birds in Lincoln County, the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (Aphis) said in a statement on Sunday (March 5).

Tennessee borders several of the nation's largest chicken-meat producing states, including Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas and North Carolina. The virus is believed to spread partly by migratory wild birds, posing the risk that it may reach other farms.

In a statement on Monday night, Singapore's Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said: "AVA has suspended the imports of poultry, poultry products, processed eggs and live birds from the Lincoln County in Tennessee, and the 10km restricted area around the affected premises in Barron County, Wisconsin."

But the move excludes processed poultry products, such as pasteurised eggs and canned chicken products, which have been heat-treated to eliminate the virus.

"AVA is in regular communication with authorities in the US on the bird flu situation and will continue to monitor the developments closely," said the agency.

The affected Tennessee site has been placed under quarantine and the flock will be destroyed to prevent the disease's spread.

No birds will enter the food system, Aphis said. "Animal health is our top priority," said Tennessee's state veterinarian Charles Hatcher, Tennessee's state veterinarian, said in a statement.

"With this HPAI detection, we are moving quickly and aggressively to prevent the virus from spreading," he added, using the acronym for highly pathogenic avian influenza.

South Korea has also banned live poultry and egg imports from the US after the discovery, the Agriculture Ministry said yesterdayMon.

The country has faced surging egg prices and has culled almost 34 million birds amid a domestic outbreak.

While poultry producers across Europe and Asia have been grappling with bird flu in recent months, Brazil, the world's largest chicken exporter, has so far remained untouched.

The HPAI finding is the the first US case at a commercial poultry farm this year, according to the state's agriculture department. The highly pathogenic form of the virus can be fatal to domesticated chickens and turkeys.

About 30 nearby poultry farms are also under quarantine while none have reported an increase in bird deaths, Tennessee's agriculture department said.

The US South-east was largely spared bird flu during the last major US outbreak, which was centred around turkey and egg farms in the Midwest and led to the death of more than 48 million birds until mid-2015 from either infection or culling.

HPAI was found once last year at an Indiana turkey farm. Previous outbreaks have led some importing nations to restrict shipments of poultry from affected areas.