Malaysia has banned the import of pet birds in the latest step aimed at averting an outbreak of bird flu after a South American parrot died in Britain from the disease, an official and a news report said Thursday.
Malaysia has imported nearly 8,000 pet birds this year mainly from the Netherlands, Belgium, Jamaica and Singapore and the government is concerned that such birds could bring in the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus, said an official from Malaysia's veterinary services department. He spoke on condition of anonymity according to department rules.
Hawari Hussein, Malaysia's veterinary chief, said all bird importers and pet shops in the country have been informed about the ban, which will remain in force indefinitely, the New Straits Times newspaper reported.
Malaysia, which declared itself free of bird flu in January following an outbreak last year, has banned imports of poultry from countries hit by the disease and has imposed jail terms and heavy fines for those found doing so. It has also stepped up surveillance along its border with Thailand following the recent death of a man there.
Bird flu has killed or forced the slaughter of millions of birds in Asia since it emerged in 2003 and has jumped to humans, killing more than 60 people. The disease has also recently infected fowl in Croatia, Romania, Russia and Turkey, raising fears it could spread to the rest of Europe.
So far, no humans are known to have died from bird flu in Malaysia, following last year's outbreak in the northeastern Kelantan state that was sparked by fighting cocks smuggled from neighboring Thailand, AP reports. P.T.