A package of tiny dead birds passed off as Customs agents confiscated pet food at a US airport. U.S. Customs and Border Protection says the package came into Dulles International Airport on a flight from Beijing on January 27.
Agents discovered the bag of dead birds in the baggage of a passenger who was on their way to Maryland. The passenger said the package was cat food. Importers and consignees are asked to consult their websites to ensure they comply with certification, licensing, and all importation requirements.
Birds from China are prohibited for import into the U.S. due to the possible spread of bird flu, according to federal officials. According to authorities, the birds were “destroyed by incineration” with approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“These dead birds are prohibited from importation to the United States as unprocessed birds pose a potentially significant disease threat to our nation’s poultry industries and more alarmingly to our citizens as potential vectors of avian influenza,” Casey Durst, the director of Field Operations for CBP’s Baltimore Field Office, said in the statement.
According to the CBP, the luggage was examined by agriculture specialists who discovered a package with pictures of a dog and a cat on it. Inside the partially see-through bag were a load of dried-out dead birds that measured about two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half inches long.
CBP officials confirmed agents seized up to 5,000 prohibited animals, soil and insects, and meat byproduct at the U.S. border on average every day last year. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, The U.S. Fish, and Wildlife Service, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regulate the importation of animal products and animals into the United States.
Bird flu is a particular worry at the minute – as well as the current Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, the Chinese Ministry for Agriculture and Rural Affairs reported that the incredibly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu had been discovered in thousands of chickens in Hunan Province.
The ministry released a statement on 1 February that said: “The farm has 7,850 chickens, and 4,500 of the chickens have died from the contagion. Local authorities have culled 17,828 poultry after the outbreak,”
While there are no reported human cases of the virus, and transmission is rare, the World Health Organization’s information on bird flu states that nearly all cases of infection come from ‘close contact with infected live or dead birds, or H5N1-contaminated environments’.
In a statement, the WHO also said: “If the H5N1 virus were to change and become easily transmissible from person to person while retaining its capacity to cause severe disease, the consequences for public health could be very serious.”