Cayman’s Ministry of Agriculture has put a temporary ban on the importation of fresh, chilled and frozen poultry meat from the United Kingdom and European Union countries amid fears over the spread of avian flu.

Agriculture Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, in a press release announcing the import ban, said, “There is currently an outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)  in sections of Europe. Although it is still a developing situation, the Ministry of Agriculture has temporarily restricted the importation of poultry from affected countries to safeguard our local consumers from infection.”

She added that the veterinary team at the Department of Agriculture has informed importers of the new restrictions, and Agricultural Health Inspection Service officers were monitoring imports closely.

The ministry advised that the ban will not affect the importation of products already treated to destroy the virus, such as canned poultry products and those in airtight containers.

Following reports in the summer that the flu strain, known as H5N8, had been found in wild and domestic fowl in western Russia and Kazakhstan, similar reports emerged from the Netherlands in October. Since then, the bird flu strain has been found in the UK, Germany, Ireland, Belgium, Denmark, France and Sweden.

According to the European Food Safety Authority, no human cases have been detected in the outbreaks so far and the risk of transmission to the general public remains “very low”.

However, the organisation warned, “The evolution of the viruses needs to be closely monitored to assess the ongoing risk of viruses emerging that can be transmitted to humans.”

As of 20 Nov., the most recent date the EFSA had issued a statement on the avian flu, more than 300 cases of the flu had been reported in the previous month across the European countries affected. The majority of those cases involved wild birds, but there had also been a handful of outbreaks among poultry.

Experts believe the virus is being spread by migrating wild birds.

The UK plans to implement a legal requirement on 14 Dec. for all bird keepers to keep their birds indoors and to follow strict biosecurity measures in order to limit the spread of the disease.

UK government veterinary officers said avian influenzas pose a very low food-safety risk for consumers, and they do not affect the consumption of poultry products, including eggs.

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