The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has issued an interim rule updating its highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) requirements for importing birds, poultry and hatching eggs. Because APHIS’s previous restrictions applied only to the H5N1 subtype of avian influenza, the new rule extends its purview to include any HPAI subtype, thus barring poultry imports from any country where these subtypes “are considered to exist.”

Effective January 24, 2011, the interim rule also prohibits the importation of live poultry and birds that “have been vaccinated for any H5 or H7 subtype,” as well as their hatching eggs, since these imports “may produce false positive test results … during the required 30-day quarantine.” In addition, APHIS has banned live poultry, birds and hatching eggs “that have moved through regions where any HPAI subtype exists.”

APHIS has invited comments on the interim rule before March 25, 2011. It has also published a list of countries affected with HPAI subtypes that includes Japan, where the government recently ordered a cull of 400,000 chickens exposed to the H5 strain. See Meatingplace.com, January 24, 2011.