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Bird Flu scare and the US embargo on birds

Updated: Friday, April 16, 2021 4:43 PM EDT
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Bird flu scare and the US embargo on birds

December 29,2005

Based on concerns about highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 virus and its potential to cause illness in humans, CDC and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have taken steps to prevent importation of birds and bird products from countries with the virus.

On February 4, 2004, CDC issued an order for an immediate ban on the import of all birds (Class: Aves) from the following areas in Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, People's Republic of China (including Hong Kong SAR), South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. This order complemented a similar action taken by the USDA. On March 10, 2004, CDC, in coordination with USDA, lifted the embargo of birds and bird products from Hong Kong, because evidence showed no further HPAI H5N1 activity in the region.

On September 28, 2004, the list of countries affected by the embargo of birds and bird products was expanded by both CDC and USDA to include Malaysia. Further spread of H5N1 through Asia and into Europe prompted USDA to issue a Final Rule on July 20, 2005, restricting the importation of poultry, commercial birds, and some pet birds, as well as unprocessed bird products, from countries with HPAI H5N1. On December 29, 2005, CDC issued an amendment adding Kazakhstan, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine to its current embargo.

Thus, the CDC and USDA combined regulations currently restrict the importation of birds and bird products from the following countries: Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Peoples' Republic of China, Romania, Russia, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, and Vietnam. (current as of December 29, 2005).

Questions and Answers

What birds are subject to the current import restrictions?

The CDC order applies to all birds (including poultry) from Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Peoples’ Republic of China, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Romania, Russia, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, and Vietnam, whether dead or alive, as well as products derived from birds, such as hatching eggs. The USDA rule restricts entry of poultry, commercial birds, pet birds, and unprocessed bird products from these countries.

Why do the CDC and USDA import restrictions apply to birds, but not other animals?

HPAI H5N1 avian influenza is a subtype of the type A influenza virus. Wild birds are the natural hosts of the virus, which circulates among birds worldwide. It is very contagious among birds and can be deadly to them, particularly domesticated birds like chickens. Infected birds shed virus in saliva, nasal secretions, and feces. Avian influenza viruses spread among susceptible birds when they have contact with contaminated excretions. Because there is no evidence of sustained HPAI H5N1 virus transmission among other animals, restrictions on other animal species are not currently needed. If additional animals appear to pose a risk for human infection, the importation restrictions may be expanded to include them.

Do the CDC and USDA import restrictions apply to birds already in the United States?

No current evidence suggests that birds infected with HPAI H5N1 have been imported and are causing disease in the United States. Therefore, these orders do not include restrictions upon the domestic movement of birds already in the United States.

Are there any exceptions to the import restrictions?

Yes. The orders do not apply to any person who imports or attempts to import products derived from birds if such products have been properly processed to render them noninfectious, as determined by federal officials, so that they comply with USDA requirements and pose no risk of transmitting or carrying the HPAI H5N1 virus.

What are HHS' and USDA's authority for taking these actions?

These actions are based upon provisions in Title 42 United States Code Section 264 (Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act) which authorize HHS to make and enforce regulations needed to prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of diseases from foreign countries into the United States, or from one State or possession into any other State or possession. CDC has implemented this statute through regulations, and those that specifically authorize the order are found at 42 CFR 71.32(b). USDA’s authority for these actions is found at 9 CFR Parts 93, 94, and 95.

Who will enforce the provisions of these import restrictions?

CDC will work with other federal agencies, such as the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service of USDA, Bureau of Customs and Border Protection of the Department of Homeland Security, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service of the Department of Interior, who have legal responsibility for enforcing the importation embargo.

What are the consequences of violating these import restrictions?

CDC is most concerned with making sure people comply with the order as a way of preventing the spread of HPAI H5N1 virus infection to humans and other animals. People who violate the order may be subject to criminal and/or civil penalties.

 

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