Poultry importation from US halted for 90 days - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Poultry importation from US halted for 90 days

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 by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - Due to a recent outbreak of a virus that occurs mainly in birds, the Guam Department of Agriculture is putting a temporary stop on the importation of poultry from the US Mainland. Just how serious is the matter?   

For the next three months, no poultry will be imported to Guam. "What we're doing is we're going to postponed, we called for 90 days and I think and hope it will be less than that postpone the importation of poultry from the mainland united states, it's still okay from Hawaii, and that's because of a recent outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in the United States which is a quite a rare event," explained Dr. Tom Poole, the territorial veterinarian under the Department of Agriculture. And while the last time an outbreak of this kind occurred back in 1984, he says the department is taking the precautionary measure effective until May 9.

He added, "Most of the poultry that is imported is birds is basically fighting chickens, that is most of the birds that are imported into Guam and since 1 October, we've imported already over a thousand birds so far, so quite a few birds come in and that's most of the poultry that comes in not a lot of laying chickens that are imported, so that's most of it."

So how concerned should we be here at home? "There's really no - that's really the great concern here, is there really is no risk to humans normally, unless you're working with chickens, so if you're working in an egg farm or a broiler house, or with fighting chickens, then you do have some risk of contracting Avian Influenza from an infected bird but for the tourists and the rest of us, it's zero and for consuming chicken, as long as you're cooking chicken it's zero, and those birds aren't going to get in the chain, those birds are USDA inspected anyways, so zero concern about eating chicken," he said.

HPAI viruses are spread by wild birds that migrate from Canada to the US the backyard farms where most of the fighting birds are raised on the mainland are particularly vulnerable. Had one made its way to Guam, the mortality rate of Guam's poultry could approach 100%. And while the temporary ban is only a precautionary measure and the risk is small, the potential pools says could be devastating.

"We can protect against, even though the risk is small, we can eliminate the risk hopefully fairly painless," he said, agreeing that it's better to be safe than sorry.

In the meantime, poultry operations and breeding on Guam can continue. 

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