Cayman bans UK birds

Importation of live birds and fresh or frozen poultry products from the United Kingdom has been banned in the Cayman Islands.

‘The decision to suspend imports of live birds and fresh and frozen poultry products, excluding processed poultry products, such as prepared frozen meals, is a precautionary measure that is being taken to protect the Cayman Islands until more information on the extent and severity of this current outbreak is known’ said Director of Agriculture Mr. Adrian Estwick. ‘The H5N1 strain of Avian Influenza, commonly called bird flu, is a serious threat to local bird populations and a potential risk to residents, as the disease has shown the ability to transfer from birds to humans.’

The appearance of the disease in the United Kingdom has to date been limited to three swans found in the Abbotsbury Swanery and the vicinity in the Chesil Beach area of Dorset.

‘Available information indicates that the affected swans were migratory birds and to date there has been no evidence of the disease in the domestic bird population, including commercial poultry’ said Department of Agriculture Veterinary Officer Dr. Colin Wakelin.

‘The department will continue to monitor this incident very closely and will take all appropriate actions necessary as the situation unfolds,’ said Mr. Estwick via a press release.

This could include additional import control measures if the situation warrants or the timely removal of the temporary suspension if this proves to be an isolated incident and no further cases are found during the investigation in the UK.

Until then the department has decided to maintain its special requirements for disinfection of dogs and cats coming form the UK, originally imposed in response to the recent Foot and Mouth Disease in that country.

‘Although dogs and cats do not become infected by H5N1 Avian Influenza, there is a possibility that they could carry the disease organism on their coats if they came into contact with dead or sick wild birds infected with the disease,’ said Mr. Wakelin. ‘As such, although we realise this risk is low, the Department deems it an appropriate precaution to take at this early stage until the current situation is fully clarified.’

Any members of the public or the business community that wish any additional information about these new temporary import restrictions, are invited to contact either the Department of Agriculture Health Inspection Services unit at 946-2967 or the main department office at 947-3090.