News Release: September 19, 2002

Posted on Sep 19, 2002 in 2002 News Releases, News-Releases

NR02-17 September 19, 2002

Hawaii Department of Agriculture Imposes Embargo on Birds Shipped Through U.S. Mail

Honolulu – The Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) yesterday imposed an immediate embargo on birds and poultry shipped through the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to reduce the risk for the introduction and establishment of the West Nile Virus (WNV) in Hawaii. ( Click here to view Embargo order in PDF format).

WNV is transmitted by mosquitoes and is primarily a wild-bird disease; but other birds, horses and humans may also become infected. Certain types of birds, when infected, can produce high enough virus levels for several days and serve as a source of infection when fed upon by mosquitoes. Although horses and humans do become infected and deaths can occur, they do not produce high enough virus levels and are not sources for the spread of the disease.

The mail embargo affects all birds except day-old chicks and hatching eggs, which are not considered a risk for transmitting the disease. The embargo order will stay in effect until rescinded by the department. HDOA officials have been working with local USPS officials, who have committed to enforcing the embargo order.

This embargo will prevent birds and poultry, except day-old chicks and hatching eggs, from entering Hawaii through the USPS. Additional pre-entry requirements for birds will also be submitted for consideration to the Hawaii Board of Agriculture through emergency rulemaking next week. Prior to the embargo, birds were being shipped to Hawaii through the USPS bypassing current inspection procedures because of the right to privacy afforded First Class and Express Mail. However, during this disease outbreak, HDOA and the USPS recognize the need to insure imported birds do not serve as a means for the establishment of West Nile virus in Hawaii.

West Nile virus has been identified in 42 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian provinces with the pattern of advance consistent with the movement of wild birds. It has not been detected in Hawaii. Should the virus become established in Hawaii’s mosquito or bird populations, there is a high probability that the disease will become endemic, causing significant impacts on public health, the economy and the environment, including various species of endangered native birds.

For more information on the embargo call HDOA at 973-9560 or the USPS in Honolulu at 423-3934.