Published 11 Dec 2023
There will be a suspension of raw poultry (chicken, duck, turkey, goose, and quail) products imported from the following areas, into Singapore during this festive season, due to the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 outbreak:
Japanese prefectures - Saga, Ibaraki, Saitama and Kagoshima
Processed (heat treated) poultry product can still be imported.
Singapore Food Agency (SFA), in collaboration with NParks (AVS), are authorised and states that they inspect local poultry farms, slaughterhouses, and test all (imported and locally reared) live poultry for diseases, including avian influenza.
SFA advise people to cook meat and eggs thoroughly, wash their hands with soap after handling raw poultry products in the market, supermarket and at home, to further minimise the risk of contracting bird flu from any poultry sources.
As a general precaution, people should always avoid contact with sick wild birds or dead wild birds’ carcasses, unless fully trained and equipped.
Singapore is free from H5N1, although it is endemic in our region.
In Feb 2022 the highly pathogenic avian influenza ripped through poultry farms across the United States. By the end of that year, about 60 million birds had been killed because of the virus.
Today in 2023, the total culling tally is up to about 68 million poultry, a sign that the disease has slowed down, but is still around.
Bird flu viruses also have been known to sometimes infect mammals that eat the infected birds or poultry, including but not limited to wild animals, such as seals, bears, foxes, and skunks; farmed mink; but also stray or domestic animals, such as cats and dogs; and zoo animals, such as tigers and leopards.
“H5N1 bird flu viruses have been detected sporadically in some domestic animals, including cats during outbreaks in Thailand in 2004 and Northern Germany in 2006, and more recently in cats and dogs in North America,” as stated by the CDC.
Due to this current 2023-2024 chapter of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1outbreak, researchers have recorded a mass number of deaths in elephant seals in the Antarctic, as well as fur seals, kelp gulls, and brown skua at several other nearby sites.
There are concerns that the virus may devastate the remote penguin colonies in Antarctic and sub-Antarctic regions as the penguins gather in large numbers for the breeding season.
To date, over 500,000 seabirds and over 20,000 sea lions have died due to highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 in Peru and Chile alone.
HOW DOES IT AFFECT
YOU AND YOUR PET(S)?
Although humans are at a lower risk of getting an infection through contact with an infected wild, stray, feral, or domestic mammal, it is still possible - as we have learned from the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If your domestic pet dog or cat goes outdoors and could potentially eat or be exposed to infected sick or dead birds, or be in an environment contaminated with highly pathogenic viruses, they can become infected with many diseases, including bird flu.
While it is unlikely that you would get sick with bird flu through direct contact with your roaming, infected pet, there is no 100% guarantee.
For example, in 2016, a human in New York City contracted H5N1 from an infected cat.
The person was a veterinarian.
Therefore, we recommend that basic hygiene practices and food safety measures must be applied in every possible scenario (whether at home or work) where one may be exposed to contaminated products, vectors, and fomites, avoiding transmission of many infectious diseases, including bird flu.
These basic hygiene protocols include:
• Avoiding direct contact with live poultry, wild birds or their droppings.
If contact is made, wash hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
• Cooking poultry and eggs thoroughly before eating or feeding your pet
• Washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (e.g. before handling food or eating, after going to the toilet, or after coughing or sneezing)
If your pet cat or pet dog shows one of more clinical signs of respiratory issue after exposure to sick wild birds and dead wild birds’ carcasses, with symptoms like:
Loss of ability to vocalize
Please contact your primary care veterinarian to seek medical attention as soon as you can.
Technical report (CDC): Highly pathogenic Avian Influenza A (H5N1) Viruses https://www.cdc.gov/flu/avianflu/spotlights/2022-2023/h5n1-technical-report_october.htm
Cambodia: Two Fatality Human H5N1 Avian Flu Infection https://www.cdc.gov/flu/avianflu/spotlights/2022-2023/cambodia-two-fatal-H5N1.htm
Weston Phoebe (8 Dec 2023) Mass deaths of elephant seals recorded as bird flu sweeps across the Antarctic https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/dec/08/mass-deaths-elephant-seals-penguins-bird-flu-antarctic-ecological-disaster-aoe
Influenza A, H7N9 is one of the strains of avian influenza (bird flu).
Bird Flu in Pets and Other Animals (CDC)
Wiener-Bronner Danielle (2 Dec 2023) Turkey prices are down. (CNN) https://edition.cnn.com/2023/12/02/business/avian-flu-eggs-turkey/index.html
What You Need to Know About Bird Flu (NParks)