Taiwan Finds 3rd Case of Deadly H5N1 Virus in Birds Smuggled From China

Various birds are displayed on a famous bird street, Ho-pin Road, in Taipei. Taiwan has so far been spared a serious outbreak of the H5N1 virus lethal to humans, but authorities found rare birds infected with the strain in a container smuggled from China
Various birds are displayed on a famous bird street, Ho-pin Road, in Taipei. Taiwan has so far been spared a serious outbreak of the H5N1 virus lethal to humans, but authorities found rare birds infected with the strain in a container smuggled from China in 2003, 2005 and now 2012. Richard Chung/Reuters

Taiwan authorities said Tuesday that dozens of pet birds smuggled from southern China into the country tested positive for the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus and that the infected birds had been destroyed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that the batch of 38 infected birds was discovered at Taiwan's Taoyuan International Airport in northern Taiwan, and was found in the carry-on luggage of a smuggler who bought the birds in the Chinese city of Guangzhou when he was returning from Macau on July 7, according to Focus Taiwan News Channel.

"This marks the third time the virus has been detected at the country's borders," said CDC Deputy Director-General Chou Jih-haw, adding that the past cases were found in smuggled birds in 2003 and 2005.

While Taiwan has no recorded cases of the deadly H5N1 influenza virus, the island has in recent years reported several outbreaks of H5N2 bird flu, a less virulent strain of the virus, according to CDC statistics.

The smuggler and eight other people who had been in close contact with him were monitored for any signs of the disease but did not exhibit any symptoms, Chou said.

According to statistics from the World Health Organization, there have been 607 reported H5N1 cases and 358 deaths worldwide since 2003.

China is considered to be one of the countries most at risk for the influenza epidemic because it has the world's biggest poultry population and many of the birds are kept close to humans.

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