Taiwanese officials questions British report about bird flu

Taiwanese officials on Wednesday asked Britain for more evidence to back its claim that Taiwan was the origin of the bird flu virus found in birds at a British quarantine center.Tests at the center found the dangerous H5N1 bird flu virus strain in a group of mesias, brightly colored finch-like birds imported from Taiwan, the British government said Tuesday.

It said the virus had been isolated in samples taken from some of 53 mesias that died in quarantine before Oct. 21, when bird flu was first confirmed at the center in a parrot from South America. All the birds at the center were subsequently destroyed.

On Wednesday, Taiwanese officials expressed doubts about the British report, saying tests at the farm that supplied the birds had found no evidence of the virus.

Taiwan's top animal health official, Watson Sung, also told reporters the British data had inconsistencies about the number of birds involved.

Taiwan will send a delegation to Britain to clear up the situation, Sung said.

Bird flu has ravaged poultry stocks across Asia and killed at least 64 people in the region since 2003. It has also spread to birds in parts of Europe and Africa.

Last month, Taiwan found the H5N1 strain in birds smuggled in on a freighter from mainland China. No bird flu infections in humans have been recorded on the island, repots the AP. I.L.

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