The Straits Times
18 November 2005
EVERY year, about 20,000 birds flying south for the winter take a breather at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in Kranji. Many others stop off at Pulau Ubin and the Changi coastal area during the September-March migratory season.
It might be a natural marvel, but this year it brings with it the potential threat of bird flu.
To deal with this threat, Singapore's Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and the National Parks Board have set up an ongoing surveillance programme to test wild birds for the virus at the wetland reserve. During this peak migratory season, officers are carrying out weekly tests.
They have also extended surveillance efforts to Pulau Ubin and widened their net to test resident birds around the island throughout the year.
More than 400 birds have already been given a clean bill of health since testing started in August 2003.
The deadly virus can infect many species of birds. In general, domestic poultry such as chickens and quails are most susceptible. Many species of waterfowl, especially wild geese, ducks and swans, may carry the virus without appearing to be ill.
However, the current H5N1 strain also appears to cause severe disease even in wild waterfowl. Why this is so is not well understood.
The AVA has given the assurance that Singapore is free from bird flu and it is safe to visit nature reserves.
However, it has warned that people should wash their hands thoroughly with soap if they come into contact with birds.
Thanks to: WildSingapore