China has announced that it has banned all imports of U.S. poultry, poultry products, and eggs as a result of recent outbreaks in the United States of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in non-commercial flocks and wild birds in the Pacific Northwest.

In a joint announcement, China’s Ministry of Agriculture and the General Administration for Quality Supervision Inspection and Quarantine imposed nationwide restrictions on imports of processed and unprocessed U.S. poultry and eggs shipped from the United States after January 8.  The ban also includes live chicks and hatching eggs.  The joint statement indicated that the ban was “necessary to prevent the spread of avian influenza in China and to protect the health and safety of the country’s domestic poultry livestock.”  At this point, more than 30 countries have restricted import of poultry products from the United States.

“While most trade bans follow international OIE guidelines that stress a regionalized approach to HPAI incidents, some do not, including this unjustified action by China,” said NCC President Mike Brown.  “The U.S. poultry industry is working with our government to minimize as much as possible trade impacts on our poultry and poultry products.  We are urging China to revisit this decision quickly.”

The latest data available indicates that from January through November last year, total U.S. poultry exports to China reached $272 million. Of the $272 million, $141 million was broiler meat and $84 million were chicken paws.

Two cases of highly-pathogenic avian influenza were isolated in the Whatcom County area of Washington state late last year. State veterinarians reported that the first case was diagnosed in a captive Gyrfalcon that had been fed hunter-caught wild duck meat.   Samples were sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory where they were sequenced and found to be H5N8, a Euro-Asian strain similar to that isolated from previous South Korean, Japanese, and European outbreaks.

The second case, from a wild pintail duck, was confirmed to be H5N2.  This case was reported to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife after a waterfowl die-off on Wiser Lake in Washington, and the virus may be a recombinant strain with the H5N8 strain. Both cases were located close to the Canadian border, and neither case was in proximity to either backyard or commercial flocks.

Because of increased surveillance and testing, another case was confirmed by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health inspection Service in a backyard flock in Oregon.   That non-commercial flock was comprised of approximately 100 mixed birds (chickens, guinea, fowl, and assorted ducks).  Samples were taken and confirmed to be the H5N8 strain. The facilities for that flock owner contained an open water source where the flock was able to interact with wild waterfowl.  Therefore, it is suspected that this was the route of virus transmission.

No avian influenza has been found in any commercial poultry flocks in the United States at this time.  As USDA has indicated, there is no immediate public health concern with either of these avian influenza viruses.

The U.S. government and poultry industries have sophisticated systems and techniques to detect the introduction of the virus into a commercial poultry flock and has proven methods to quickly eliminate the virus.  The U.S. poultry industry has a strong avian influenza testing and detection program administered by the federal National Poultry Improvement Plan, in addition to each state’s individual response plan.  Poultry farmers also maintain strict biosecurity measures year-round, keep their flocks protected from wild birds and routinely test flocks for avian influenza.