Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Proceso Alcala ordered the temporary ban on the importation of domesticated and wild birds and their products including poultry meat, day-old chicks, eggs and semen from Haifa, Israel.

Alcala set the temporary bans through Memorandum Order 4, series of 2015 to protect the health of the local livestock population and food safety in the country from the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). It was reported by the Office of International des Epizooties (OIE) that there has been an outbreak of HPAI virus in Avi’el, Hadera, Haifa, Israel that started on January 14, 2015.

The outbreak, according to the OIE, was caused by H5N1 HPAI virus affecting turkey fattening farms as confirmed by the Kimron Veterinary Institute, Avian Diseases Laboratory through real-time polymerase chain reaction.

The OIE Animal Health Information Department said that the H5 HPAI virus is among the notifiable OIE-listed terrestrial animal diseases, infections and infestations in force in 2014.

Under the orders, the Secretary specified emergency measures such as the immediate suspension of the processing, evaluation of application and issuance of Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Import Clearance to import the aforementioned commodities from said location; and stoppage and confiscation of all shipments of aforementioned commodities from said locations, except heat-treated products with slaughter/production date before October 31, 2014. The Secretary also stressed that the importation of poultry and meat products is subject to the conditions provided in the applicable articles of the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code, 2014.

“Our poultry subsector grossed P189.7 billion last year, or 7.84% higher than in 2013. We cannot afford then to lose this growth foothold to avian diseases; that is why we are keen on monitoring entry of products that could threaten the health of our poultry industry,” Alcala said.

The OIE is an inter-governmental organization that, among others, has functions of informing governments of the occurrence of animal diseases and of ways to control these diseases, of coordinating studies devoted to the surveillance and control of animal diseases and of harmonizing regulations to facilitate trade in animals and animal products. ### (Jan P. Dacumos, DA-AFID)