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U.S. Relaxes Canada Poultry Ban

The United States has relaxed a ban on poultry imports from British Columbia initially sparked by the discovery of bird flu in a duck raised in the Canadian province.

The strain of bird flu is now known to be low-pathogenic and poses no threat to human health, unlike the more virulent form in Asia that has killed dozens of people, the Agriculture Department said.

U.S. officials said they banned on Nov. 21 all poultry imports from British Columbia until their Canadian counterparts could identify the virus, later found on a second, nearby farm as well. Several Asian countries that quickly followed the U.S. lead now are expected to relax their bans as well.

In the days after the Nov. 18 discovery of the virus, Canadian officials killed nearly 58,000 ducks and geese on the two farms, located outside Vancouver, said Brian Evans, Canada's chief veterinary officer.

The strain of flu doesn't kill poultry, but can leave them sickened and weak. Proper cooking kills the virus, health officials said.

In related developments:

  • The European Commission on Tuesday announced an upgraded EU plan to combat a possible pandemic of human flu, following a two-day exercise simulating a pan-European flu crisis. Although the commission did not make many details public, it said the flu plan includes coordination among the bloc's 25 member states, the World Health Organization and the commission in case of a bird-flu-triggered outbreak in humans; the deployment of anti-virals and the development of a vaccine.
  • Almost nine in ten Taiwanese want the government to impose restrictions on contacts with rival China in the event of a major outbreak of bird flu, a government survey released Tuesday found. The Mainland Affairs Council, the Cabinet-level body in charge of China policies, said 86 percent of Taiwanese are worried an outbreak on the mainland could affect the island, and an identical percentage want to place tight restrictions on contacts between the two in such an event.
  • Last week China reported its second confirmed human death from bird flu, while tests showed a teacher who fell ill elsewhere in the country does not have the H5N1 bird flu virus. China's Health Ministry said its latest fatality — a 35-year-old farmer identified only by her surname, Xu — died Tuesday after developing a fever and pneumonia-like symptoms following contact with sick and dead poultry.
  • The United States is unprepared for the next flu pandemic, lacking the manufacturing capacity to provide 300 million doses of a vaccine for three to five more years, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said. "What we all learned from (Hurricane) Katrina is that sometimes we have to think very clearly about the unthinkable," Leavitt said Sunday. "We're not as prepared as we need to be. ...We will not have enough for everyone."

  • Pakistan has analyzed samples from more than 16,000 fowl and 700 migratory birds and found no traces of bird flu, including the virulent H5N1 strain, the government said Wednesday. The country has also set up 12 labs around the country and invested $660,000 to improve surveillance and emergency preparedness in case of an outbreak, said Muhammad Afzal, an official at the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock.
  • So many people in Britain have been spooked by all the bird flu stories, they've run down supplies of regular flu vaccine, even though it doesn't protect against bird flu, which hasn't appeared in Britain anyway, reports CBS News correspondent Steve Holt (audio).

    In the United States, the Agriculture Department said it would maintain the import ban on birds from within a three-mile radius of the two British Columbia farms. Evans said the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is maintaining a voluntary ban on exports from the quarantine area and is carrying out ongoing testing of birds on the 78 farms within the area.

    Farmers typically destroy entire flocks of birds when they discover the virus. A 2004 outbreak of bird flu in British Columbia led to the slaughter of 17 million birds.

    The United States continues to ban bird imports from nations where the high-pathogenic virus from Asia has been detected. They include Cambodia, Romania, China, Russia, Indonesia, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Laos, Vietnam and Malaysia.

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