Taiwan’s agriculture authorities confirmed on Sunday that outbreaks of avian influenza at goose farms in southern Taiwan have been caused by two highly pathogenic viruses — H5N8 and a new type of H5N2 — seen for the first time in the country.
The Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine under the Council of Agriculture said the bird flu outbreaks reported at four goose farms in Yunlin County have been confirmed as being caused by a new strain of the H5N2 virus.
The H5N8 infection found in tissue samples from geese raised on a farm in Dalin Township in Chiayi County was identified as an H5N8 subtype similar to the avian flu virus that attacked South Korea in 2014, the bureau noted.
“Both of the viruses are new and have never been detected in Taiwan before,” the bureau said in a statement.
The conclusions were based on laboratory tests of tissue samples collected from 23 goose farms and one duck egg farm in Taiwan, according to the bureau.
Measures have been taken to cull infected fowl, which include 6,000 geese at the four affected farms in Yunlin and more than 1,500 geese raised for breeding at the virus-hit farm in Chiayi, according to local governments.
The Chiayi County Agriculture Department said all geese at the goose farm in the county will be culled, and other farms raising fowl with a one-kilometer radius of the infected farm will be required to deliver samples for checks once a month for three straight months.
On Sunday, more than 7,000 ducks at a duck egg farm in Wandan Township in Pingtung County were also targeted for culling after suspicions that the farm had been hit by the H5N2 virus were confirmed.
Meanwhile, a goose farm in Tainan reported suspicious deaths Saturday, when 100 of over 800 geese from the farm died as they were being transported to a slaughterhouse in Pingtung County.
Lee Chao-chuan, head of the Tainan City Animal Health Inspection and Protection Office, confirmed the deaths Sunday, saying samples of dead geese have been sent for laboratory checks.
“The situation is not yet clear at the moment,” Lee said.
Centers of Disease Control Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang said the agency has subjected 83 poultry farm operators and quarantine personnel to simple health checks as a precaution, though experts at the agency judged that the H5N2 virus would not be transmitted from fowl to humans.
There has not been a single case of H5N8 infection among humans anywhere in the world, Agriculture Minister Chen Bao-ji said Sunday.
H5N8 is a virus existing in wild birds and mainly transmitted to ducks and geese, according to health experts.
Local authorities suspect that both the H5N8 and new H5N2 viruses were brought to Taiwan by migratory birds.
Because avian flu viruses can be eliminated during the cooking process at a temperature of 70 degrees Celsius and over, people are advised to cook chicken eggs or poultry well before eating them.