England: Query into quarantined bird deaths implicates Taiwan

Nov 16, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – Investigation of an avian influenza outbreak points to a shipment of finches from Taiwan as the carriers of the H5N1 virus found in a quarantine facility in Sussex, England.

The H5N1 virus infected finches known as mesias that were imported on Sep 28 from Taiwan to England. While the virus spread among those finches, it did not spread to other species of birds held in the same quarantine station, according to yesterday's report by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in London.

Initial identification of the infected bird as a parrot from Surinam occurred because the parrot tissue sample was mixed with a finch's.

"It has not been possible to say whether the virus isolated came from the parrot tissue or the mesia tissue or both," DEFRA notes. "However, in light of the other evidence the balance of probabilities is that the source was the Mesia sample."

Subsequent tests of pooled finch samples showed the presence of the H5N1 virus. There was no evidence of transmission to other bird species in the facility, DEFRA's news release said.

Taiwanese officials today dismissed the DEFRA report, saying the birds were healthy when they left Taiwan on Sep 27 and no signs of the virus have been found in tests at the bird farm since then, according to Reuters news service.

"Taiwan is still a non-infected area of bird flu," said Watson Sung, who is with plant and animal health in the Taiwanese agriculture department.

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