Customs and immigration: Barbados to check poultry imports, on the watch for bird flu

Barbados will check poultry imports at its airport and seaports, on the lookout for bird flu, an official said Friday.

Customs and immigration officers will also watch out for arriving visitors who look feverish, said chief medical officer Ann St. John. Egg and poultry imports have not been banned, but bird flu "is a major issue, and we in Barbados see it as a serious matter," she said.

The announcement came as British authorities confirmed on Friday that a parrot exported from Suriname, on the northeastern coast of South America, died of bird flu. It was not clear if the bird contracted the disease in Britain or in Suriname. Fears have grown in recent weeks that the bird flu, a strain of which has killed at least 65 people in four Asian countries since 2003, may spread around the world.

Caribbean health experts on Oct. 9 met in Georgetown, Guyana to urge regional governments to prepare for a possible outbreak. Several Caribbean countries have already announced plans to increase surveillance of imports and visitors.

Carlyle Brathwaite, Barbados Egg and Poultry Producers Association president, said producers and government health and veterinary authorities were collaborating "to make sure it does not occur here."

Bird flu spreads from bird to bird and usually does not infect humans. But if the flu virus mutates and spreads from person to person, it would be catastrophic because people have no natural immunity and a vaccine does not exist, the AP reported.


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