Martin W

    A ProMED-mail post

    ProMED-mail is a program of the
    International Society for Infectious Diseases

    Date: 30 Apr 2006
    From: Joe Dudley

    The below article [2] published on 16 Mar 2005 by Thanh Nien News
    contains a detailed description of the various transportation systems
    used in the trans-frontier poultry smuggling trade between China and
    Viet Nam.

    This article includes an interesting statement that “old hens” [spent
    layer hens] comprise a significant proportion of the live poultry
    smuggling trade between Viet Nam and China. It should also be noted
    in this context that bulk sales of “old birds” — most probably spent
    layer hens — by commercial poultry producers were implicated as a
    possible contributing factor in at least one human bird flu cluster
    in Turkey (see 20060111.0100).

    Research presented at the 6th International Symposium on Avian
    Influenza (3-6 Apr 2006) indicate that there are at least 2 reasons
    why this factor may be significant:

    1. Genetics research on H5N1 strains circulating in Viet Nam
    indicates that there was at least one new introduction of an H5N1
    strain from China to Viet Nam during 2005. (The reference to the new
    introduction of H5N1 to Viet Nam during 2005 came from a presentation
    by Robert Webster, and the finding was published in a PNAS paper this
    past February 2006 — PNAS 103(8), see pg 2847, column 2 PP 2.)

    2. Experimental studies have shown that vaccinated chickens can
    harbor and transmit the H5N1 virus without showing any outward signs
    of infection, and that vaccinated chickens as well as domesticated
    ducks can serve as infectious asymptomatic carriers of the Asian H5N1
    HPAI virus. (The reference for transmission by vaccinated chickens is
    M. Bublot et al. of Merial (David Swayne of USDA SEPRL co-author),
    and for transmission in vaccinated ducks is J.A van der Groot et al
    (CIADC, Leystadt)).

    See also: Chen et al. Establishment of multiple sublineages of H5N1
    influenza virus in Asia: Implications for pandemic control. PNAS
    103(8), 2845-2850).

    The proceedings of the 6th International Symposium on Avian Influenza
    will be published in the December 2006 issue of Avian Diseases, and
    the contributed papers should provide many valuable new insights into
    the mechanisms underlying the spread of the H5N1 bird flu during
    2005/2006 from Asia into the Middle East, Europe, and Africa.

    Joseph P. Dudley, Ph.D.
    Chief Scientist
    EAI Corporation
    4301 North Fairfax Drive, Suite 200
    Arlington, VA 22203

    Date: 1 May 2006
    From: ProMED-mail
    Source: Thanh Nien News, 16 Mar 2006 [edited]

    Concerns mount as Chinese chickens illegally flow into Viet Nam

    The growing illegal import of chickens from China to Viet Nam via
    northern border gates has become a concern for the country, as the
    smuggling poses a threat to Viet Nam’s attempts to contain the bird flu.

    Although the Vietnamese prime minister has issued a ban on the import
    and transportation of poultry from other countries in order to
    control the spread of bird flu, smugglers have managed to set up an
    elaborate system to get chickens from China across the border
    unchecked. Up to 70 percent of chickens smuggled via the northern
    border into Lang Son province have escaped proper checks from border
    guards and police forces, said Captain Le Quang Dao, head of the
    border guard station surrounding the Huu Nghi International Border Gate.

    According to a Thanh Nien investigation, smugglers have designed a
    sophisticated system to illegally import chickens from China.

    1st, the chickens from China are gathered at certain areas near the
    Huu Nghi Border Gate. From there, smugglers hire porters carrying
    empty cages to walk up the mountain paths in the area during the night.

    The porters then bring the cages, which each contain 40 chickens,
    down to the mountain foot where a fleet of Minsk motorbike drivers
    await to carry the cages into Lang Son town. In order to avoid being
    caught, the motorbike drivers drive at high speeds of 80 to 90 km per
    hour. From Lang Son town, trucks then transport the smuggled chickens
    to other localities.

    Chinese chickens are usually bought at 12 000 to 13 000 VND [USD
    0.75-0.82] per kilogram at border gates and then resold for 17 000
    VND [USD 1.06] in Lang Son town, according to smugglers who have been
    caught. In other provinces, the price of illegally traded chickens
    can go up to 40 000 VND [USD 2.50].

    To ensure they don’t get caught, smugglers also have people hanging
    around near the offices of police and border guards. These people are
    assigned to immediately sound the alarm when an officer leaves the

    But, most smugglers are unaware of the dangers they pose by bringing
    the unchecked chickens into the country. Even worse, some do not care
    about their health or the health of others.

    On 16 Mar 2006, police forces stopped a truck carrying some 1.6 tons
    of chickens smuggled from China. The chickens, worth an estimated 20
    million VND [USD 1255] were then transferred to market monitors for
    destruction. Most of the chickens were old hens, with some already
    dead. According to local residents, the Chinese people have sold such
    chickens to Viet Nam but then go to markets along the border to buy
    Vietnamese chickens.

    When An Thi Binh from Bac Giang province was arrested as the truck
    owner of the smuggled chickens, she showed no fear that the chickens
    could possibly carry the bird flu. So far, “nothing has happened to
    other people trading chickens like me. If anything happens, I will be
    the 1st to die,” she said.

    According to Captain Dao, all smuggled chickens caught by police or
    border guards have been destroyed.

    [Byline: Manh Quan]


    [Between the laxly supervised export of commercial poultry and the
    efficient illegal export of live poultry, _vide supra_, and poultry
    parts (see previous postings), there is much to concern the rest of
    us. We are fortunate that Viet Nam has a vaccination policy. – Mod.MHJ]

    Date: 1 May 2006
    From: ProMED-mail
    Source: AP, CNN, 30 Apr 2006 [edited]

    Smuggled Pets Worry Bird Flu Watchdogs

    Bird flu entering the U.S. through smuggled wildlife is a growing
    worry for government officials already on the lookout for migrating
    wild birds. The concern over the trade in wild animals, pets and
    animal parts has some precedent, here and abroad.

    Gambian rats imported from Africa brought the monkeypox virus to the
    United States in 2003. They infected prairie dogs purchased as pets.
    72 people in the Midwest became ill but none died.

    In 2004, 2 Crested Hawk-Eagles carrying the virulent strain of the
    H5N1 bird flu virus were seized from the hand luggage of a Thai
    passenger at Brussels International Airport in Belgium. The passenger
    had planned to sell the birds to a Belgian falconer. Not one of the
    25 people exposed to the virus became ill. Officials killed 200
    parrots and 600 smaller birds that had contact with the Crested

    “We’re very concerned about it coming into the U.S. by whatever
    means,” Assistant Secretary of State Claudia McMurray said.

    A surveillance plan for monitoring migratory birds says a migrating
    wild bird is the most likely carrier of the H5N1 virus. The plan,
    developed by the Interior and Agriculture departments and the state
    of Alaska for use in all 50 states, also says the virus could arrive
    through smuggled poultry, an infected traveler, black-market trade in
    exotic birds or even an act of bioterrorism.

    Authorities in other countries are similarly wary. An estimated 4 500
    chickens from China are smuggled into Viet Nam every day, and the
    H5N1 virus has shown up in samples taken from some of the confiscated

    The United States and China are the biggest markets for an estimated
    USD 10 billion global trade in illegal wildlife. The black market in
    wildlife and wildlife parts is 2nd only to trafficking in arms and
    drugs. “It’s not just a matter of the U.S. telling China, ‘Clean up
    your act.’ The 2 of us are both going to get a handle on it
    together,” said McMurray, head of the State Department’s Bureau of
    Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

    About 330 000 live birds were imported into the United States in
    2004. Just 374 were denied entry, suggesting smugglers may focus on
    different routes. The ones denied entry came mainly from Mexico,
    Guyana and Ghana. The biggest sources of live birds were Canada, with
    117 000; Taiwan, 50 000; Tanzania, nearly 40 000; and Belgium, 24 000.

    The U.S. banned imports of all live birds, bird parts and bird
    products from Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Laos,
    South Korea, Thailand and Viet Nam in February 2004. Since then, the
    ban has been expanded to any country or region where bird flu is
    thought to exist.

    “The borders are where the increased emphasis needs to be,” said
    Simon Habel, director of TRAFFIC North America, which works closely
    with the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
    of Wild Fauna and Flora, based in Geneva, Switzerland. “There’s an
    endless string of clever ways people try to bring birds and animals
    into the country,” said Habel, whose trade-monitoring network is a
    joint program of the World Wildlife Fund and IUCN-The World Conservation

    More than 200 Fish and Wildlife Service special agents also do
    old-fashioned police work to try to stop the trade. “The problem is
    illegal trade that’s underground, where smugglers are bypassing that
    whole structure of quarantine and permits,” said Nicholas
    Throckmorton, an agency spokesman.

    An additional 120 agency field officers inspect wildlife shipments at
    35 ports, airports and other locations, alongside Customs and Border
    Patrol officials. The State Department hopes to also enlist private
    businesses in that effort. “The labeling on these items that come in,
    people don’t tell the truth about what’s in them,” McMurray said.
    “That’s part of the reason why I want to talk to the airlines, the
    shippers, the Fed-Exes and the UPSes of the world and say, ‘Help us
    with this.'”

    [Byline: John Heilprin]


    [While one might argue that infected smuggled birds present no risk
    because they will die en route or end up in an urban pet store — a
    similar argument to that about regularly vaccinated unexposed
    apartment dogs being at zero risk of rabies, so why go to the expense
    of ensuring their vaccination — the reality is that the volume of
    smuggled wildlife, including birds, is vast. Thus, even if only a
    trivial proportion are likely to come in contact, directly or
    indirectly, with poultry, thus potentially generating a really
    significant volume of virus, the outcome of trivial .P x 1000’s of
    birds comes to mean something in epidemiologic reality.

    Our young members will not remember the parrot craze of the early
    1970s. Parrots in unbelievable numbers were moved out of Africa and
    South America to the northern latitudes, legally and illegally. This
    resulted in Newcastle disease epidemics in the Middle East and
    Eastern Europe, and in the USA, UK, and Western Europe. The cost was
    enormous. – Mod.MHJ]

    [see also:
    Avian influenza, poultry vs migratory birds (15) 20060429.1240
    Avian influenza, poultry vs migratory birds (14) 20060422.1176
    Avian influenza, poultry vs. migratory birds (13) 20060414.1114
    Avian influenza – poultry vs. migratory birds (12) 20060413.1099
    Avian influenza, poultry vs migratory birds (11) 20060412.1088
    Avian influenza, poultry vs migratory birds (10) 20060324.0907
    Avian influenza, poultry vs migratory birds (09) 20060320.0867
    Avian influenza, poultry vs migratory birds (08) 20060309.0749
    Avian influenza, poultry vs migratory birds (07) 20060305.0721
    Avian influenza, poultry vs migratory birds (06) 20060303.0670
    Avian influenza, poultry vs migratory birds (05) 20060228.0645
    Avian influenza, poultry vs migratory birds (04) 20060227.0638
    Avian influenza, poultry vs migratory birds (03) 20060222.0578
    Avian influenza, poultry vs migratory birds (02) 20060218.0536
    Avian influenza, poultry vs migratory birds 20060217.0516]