Sri Lanka has suspended all imports of poultry, pet birds and feathers amid fears that bird flu could enter the island, the country's health minister said Friday. "It's an indefinite suspension," Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva told The Associated Press. "We are monitoring the situation on a daily basis." The moves were among several other precautionary measures to avert a pandemic in the south Asian island of 19 million people, he said. Earlier in the week, the government said it had imposed a temporary ban on poultry imports from only countries affected by the bird flu.
Sri Lanka produces 6 million kilograms (13.2 million pounds) of poultry products a year.
The government on Thursday said that bird flu come to Sri Lanka via migratory birds, but assured the public that necessary measures were already in place to avoid such a scenario.
De Silva said officials were prepared to tackle any outbreak, adding that health officials were working closely with the World Health Organization. Although there have been no recorded cases of bird flu in humans or birds in Sri Lanka, he said the government was taking precautions and "everything is in place."
If an infection is detected, a three-kilometer (1.86-mile) quarantine area will be declared and all poultry within that area will be killed, said S. K. R. Amarasekara, the chief of Sri Lanka's Animal Production and Health Department.
Most human deaths have been linked to contact with sick poultry. But the World Health Organization has warned that the virus could mutate into a form that can easily spread between people, possibly triggering a deadly global pandemic, reports the AP. I.L.