Singapore, 09 July 2012 – Home to 380 species of birds numbering 5,000, Jurong Bird Park has never seen an outbreak of avian influenza (H5N1), largely due to the surveillance methods rigorously adopted and put in place.

A veterinarian administers anti-oxidants Vitamins A, D and E to a lesser flamingo in Jurong Bird Park
A veterinarian administers the H5N2 vaccine to a lesser flamingo in Jurong Bird Park

There are various measures taken to screen and keep avian influenza at bay, beginning with the presence of sentinel chickens in the exhibits. Sentinel chickens have no immunity and will fall sick very easily when faced with a disease. They are the first alert in the event of any plausible infection. The blood and faeces of these sentinel chickens are tested monthly for avian influenza.

Before birds are imported into the Park via exchanges with other institutions, they are already tested, and when they arrive in the Park, they are tested once more. Furthermore, as a designated rescued avian centre by the governing authorities, the Bird Park receives donated birds and birds which the public rescue. All these birds from external sources are tested for avian influenza before further action takes place, to avoid compromising the health of the other birds in the park.

Relevant and susceptible species of the avian collection in Jurong Bird Park are also annually vaccinated with H5N2 vaccine, which increases the birds’ immune system by creating viable antibodies. With the immunity boost, there might be a decrease in morbidity when faced with H5N1.

A titer check is also carried out when the veterinarian collects a blood sample which undergoes a laboratory test to determine the efficacy of last year’s vaccination, and the level of H5N2 antibodies the bird produced.

These preventive measures, coupled with an epidemiology survey, an informative tool which indicates the influenza status, and the action the Park needs to take to be free of avian influenza, form the lines of defenses against avian influenza. Over and above these measures, the Bird Park also conducts an annual bird flu drill which simulates an actual outbreak in the event avian flu is encountered, as being prepared is key to combating it.

“All the field staff in the Bird Park are constantly vigilant and aware of the severity of the situation and having these bio-security measures keep the Park flu free. We have the necessary protocols in place, and are well prepared to deal with such an outbreak, should it happen,” said Mr Raja Segran, General Manager, Jurong Bird Park.