U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced Monday that it intercepted a bizarre package in the luggage of a passenger traveling from Beijing to Maryland via Dulles International Airport.
“During a baggage examination, CBP agriculture specialists discovered a package with pictures of a cat and dog that the passenger said was cat food,” according to a press release. “The package contained a bunch of unknown small birds, about 2.5 to 3.5 inches in length.”
The birds, which were nearly smuggled into the United States on Jan. 27, were dead. They were seized from the passenger and incinerated.
“The birds from China are prohibited for import due to the potential threat of highly pathogenic avian influenza,” the press release said. “The avian products were seized on behalf of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and destroyed by incineration, with USDA approval.”
American authorities and the public at large are on high alert, given the Coronavirus outbreak in China. Confirmed cases of the disease have now topped 50,000, and more than 1,000 Chinese citizens have died.
There is no correlation, as far as doctors can tell, between birds and the deadly new virus strain.
However, last week, the South China Morning Post confirmed an outbreak of the H5N1 bird flu in the Hunan province, which borders the Hubei province, the epicenter of the Coronavirus outbreak, to the south.
“The outbreak occurred in a farm in the Shuangqing district of Shaoyang city. 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,” China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said in a statement.
No human cases of the bird flu have been reported.
CBP remains vigilant.
“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, Director of Field Operations for CBP’s Baltimore Field Office said.
“Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists continue to exercise extraordinary vigilance every day in their fight to protect our nation’s agricultural and economic prosperity from invasive pests and animal diseases.”
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