Chickens are domestic poultry and pose bird flu risk

YAP HIM HOO, DIRECTOR GENERAL, AGRI-FOOD & VETERINARY AUTHORITY
Today Online 20 Feb 17;

In his letter “Experts don’t recommend culling of wild birds”, Mr Sankar Ananthanarayanan highlighted that the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Organisation for Animal Health do not recommend the culling of wild birds.

He questioned the need to do so in Singapore, and we wish to clarify that the organisations do not classify chickens as wild birds but as domestic poultry.

Both organisations mention the critical role of domestic poultry in the entry and spread of bird flu, as well as the risk of the virus evolving into a more dangerous, highly pathogenic form.

Free-roaming poultry are exposed to wild birds, which are often reservoirs of the bird flu virus. Studies have shown that chickens are more susceptible to the virus, compared with other birds such as pigeons.

There is also scientific evidence that chickens can, in turn, transmit the disease to humans.

The World Health Organisation has reported that the majority of human cases of bird flu infection have been associated with contact with infected live or dead poultry, including chickens.

In contrast, the risk to human health from wild birds carrying the virus is low.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) takes reference from these international guidelines.

We do not cull wild birds for bird flu prevention. But we take the public health risks associated with chickens seriously.

That is why we are engaging academics and experts in more research to understand the risks and determine the best way forward.

The AVA has the challenging task of ensuring public health and safety, while maintaining the balance in our urban ecosystem.

We will continue to explore feasible options and engage relevant stakeholders in our work.

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