[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 155 (Thursday, August 13, 2009)]
[Notices]
[Pages 40824-40826]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E9-19453]


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DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Rescission of February 4, 2004, Order and Subsequent Amendments 
Prohibiting the Importation of Birds and Bird Products From Specified 
Countries

AGENCY: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Department of 
Health and Human Services (HHS).

ACTION: Final Notice.

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SUMMARY: On January 21, 2009, CDC published a notice in the Federal 
Register (74 FR 3608) announcing its intent to rescind its February 4, 
2004 order and subsequent amendments prohibiting the importation of 
birds and bird products from specified countries based on the threat 
that imports from such countries increases the risk that highly 
pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) may be introduced into the United 
States. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant 
Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has implemented and continues to 
enforce regulations to prohibit or restrict the importation of birds, 
poultry, and unprocessed birds and poultry products from regions that 
have reported the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 in 
poultry. While USDA/APHIS actions are based primarily on protecting the 
U.S. commercial poultry industry from the introduction of highly 
pathogenic avian influenza H5N1, these actions have the added benefit 
of mitigating the risk of human exposure to the virus. Because the 
USDA/APHIS import restrictions adequately address risks to human 
health, HHS/CDC is announcing, in this Notice, its decision to lift its 
embargo against imports of birds and unprocessed bird products from 
those same countries. All of the bird embargoes that are currently in 
force under USDA regulations remain in effect. HHS/CDC will work 
closely with USDA/APHIS to monitor the international situation 
regarding HPAI H5N1 outbreaks and if human health risks are not 
adequately contained by USDA regulatory actions, CDC will take action 
to mitigate any human health risks associated with these outbreaks.

DATE: The decision is effective September 14, 2009.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. Robert Mullan, Division of Global 
Migration and Quarantine, National Center for Preparedness, Detection, 
and Control of Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and 
Prevention, 1600 Clifton Road, NE., MS E-03, Atlanta, Georgia 30333; 
telephone 404-498-1600.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    Since late 2003, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has 
become established as a veterinary and human health threat throughout 
the world. As of April 1, 2009 HPAI has been confirmed by the World 
Organization for Animal Health (OIE) in birds from over 60 countries in 
Asia, Europe, and Africa. In addition, as of March 30, 2009, 413 human 
cases, including 256 deaths, have been confirmed by the World Health 
Organization (WHO). Birds imported into the United States from 
countries with HPAI could pose a risk for human infection or spread of 
virus to U.S. birds.

USDA Actions

    To protect the U.S. commercial poultry industry, USDA/APHIS has 
taken specific actions to reduce the threat of importing birds or 
products with HPAI.
     USDA's authority for these actions is found at 9 CFR Parts 
93, 94, and 95.
     USDA/APHIS issued an interim final rule on February 4, 
2004, and a final rule on July 20, 2005, providing restrictions on the 
importation of birds and unprocessed bird products from countries 
confirmed to have HPAI in commercial birds.
     To date, USDA has placed import restrictions on 46 
countries.
     Import restrictions allow US-origin pet birds and 
performing birds to return to the United States following a 30-day 
quarantine at a USDA facility. Importations of processed bird products 
that have been rendered noninfectious are also allowed provided such 
products are accompanied by a USDA Veterinary Services (VS) permit and 
a government certification confirming that the products were treated 
according to USDA requirements.
     Bird products that are potentially infectious may be 
imported for science and education purposes under a USDA/APHIS permit 
process, provided that the product can be safely transported.

[[Page 40825]]

CDC Actions

    On February 4, 2004, HHS/CDC issued an order to immediately ban the 
import of all birds (Class: Aves) from specified countries, subject to 
limited exemptions for returning pet birds of US origin and certain 
processed bird-derived products. HHS/CDC took this action because birds 
from these countries can potentially infect humans with HPAI. Countries 
affected by the February 4, 2004, order included Cambodia, Indonesia, 
Japan, Laos, People's Republic of China (including Hong Kong Special 
Administrative Region [SAR]), South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. This 
order was further amended on March 10, 2004, to lift the embargo of 
birds and bird products from the Hong Kong SAR because of the 
documented control of the outbreak there and the absence of HPAI cases 
in Hong Kong's domestic bird populations. Following the documentation 
of HPAI in commercial birds in additional countries, HHS/CDC amended 
the February 4, 2004, order to add these countries to its embargo: 
Malaysia on September 28, 2004; Kazakhstan, Romania, Russia, Turkey, 
and Ukraine on December 29, 2005; Nigeria on February 8, 2006; India on 
February 22, 2006; Egypt on February 27, 2006; Niger on March 2, 2006; 
Albania, Azerbaijan, Cameroon, and Burma (Myanmar) on March 15, 2006; 
Israel on March 20, 2006; Afghanistan on March 21, 2006; Jordan on 
March 29, 2006; Burkina Faso on April 10, 2006; Pakistan on April 10, 
2006; Gaza, the West Bank, and Ivory Coast (C[ocirc]te d'Ivoire) on 
April 28, 2006; Sudan on May 16, 2006; Djibouti on June 2, 2006; and 
Kuwait on February 28, 2007.
    HHS/CDC has experienced practical and operational issues since the 
implementation of these orders. The orders
     Duplicate the USDA/APHIS rule and thus do not provide any 
additional protection of the public's health;
     Cause confusion at ports of entry regarding which agency 
has primary authority to respond;
     Give the appearance of a lack of coordinated action by the 
U.S. government, and
     May interfere with the importation of products for 
laboratory evaluation, epidemiologic assessment, and vaccine 
distribution and research.
    Thus, on January 21, 2009, CDC published a notice with a 30-day 
comment period in the Federal Register (74 FR 3608) in which it 
announced its intention to rescind the February 4, 2004, order and all 
subsequent orders prohibiting the importation of birds and bird 
products from specified countries.

Public Comments Received and CDC Responses

    CDC received three comments from the public in response to its 
January 21, 2009 Notice. Two commenters opposed CDC's proposal to 
rescind its bird embargo and one commenter commended CDC on its 
recognition that USDA's ban also protects human health.
    Public Comment #1: The first comment opposing the plan for CDC to 
rescind its bird embargo cited three concerns, as follows:
    1. The USDA and CDC prohibitions have been part of a well-
coordinated federal response to the avian influenza threat, and there 
is no need to change these practices.
    2. The USDA does not have the mandate to protect human health from 
the introduction of pathogens into the United States, and CDC does.
    3. Rescinding the CDC prohibitions might have the undesirable 
effect of reducing the public's understanding of human health concerns, 
including avian influenza, associated with the importation of birds and 
bird products into the United States.
    CDC Response: While the USDA/APHIS rule is based primarily on 
protecting the U.S. commercial poultry industry from introduction of 
HPAI H5N1, it has the added benefit of mitigating the risk of human 
exposure to the virus. Through contacts with international veterinary 
authorities and trade relationships with countries of concern, USDA/
APHIS is able to quickly assess import risk and subsequently implement 
importation restrictions on affected countries. By working in close 
collaboration with USDA/APHIS, CDC is confident that their actions 
before issuing new bird import orders are sufficient to protect public 
health.
    As the nation's lead agency for human health, HHS/CDC will ensure 
mitigation of the human health risks from HPAI and other animal 
influenza viruses that pose a risk to human health while also 
demonstrating a coordinated and efficient federal approach to managing 
risks from imported birds and unprocessed bird products. HHS/CDC will 
also take action if future USDA/APHIS restrictions do not adequately 
address the public health risk from HPAI or other influenza viruses in 
animals.
    HHS/CDC will take the following steps to ensure the human health 
threat of HPAI H5N1 continues to be prevented:
    1. To enforce USDA's importation embargo, CDC staff at the 20 U.S. 
Quarantine Stations will continue working closely with other federal 
agencies at ports of entry, such as USDA, the Department of Homeland 
Security (DHS), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) of the 
Department of the Interior (DoI).
    2. CDC staff will closely follow the international situation 
regarding HPAI outbreaks and spread through review of information from 
its internal surveillance systems, World Health Organization Influenza 
Collaborating Centers, CDC's USDA liaison officer, the United Nations 
Food and Agriculture Organization, and the World Organization for 
Animal Health.
    3. CDC staff will continue to monitor the World Organizations for 
Animal Health (OIE) and USDA/APHIS actions toward countries in which 
HPAI has been established in commercial birds to ascertain that they 
are consistent and make an assessment if actions taken mitigate the 
human health risk to the United States. If the review process 
identifies human health risks that are not adequately contained by 
USDA/APHIS actions, HHS/CDC will implement additional importation 
restrictions for birds and unprocessed bird products. For example, if 
human cases of HPAI were reported in a country with no official 
confirmation of avian cases (that would normally trigger a USDA ban), 
HHS/CDC could implement restrictions on an emergency basis.
    4. CDC staff will post a link to all USDA/APHIS restrictions on its 
Web site (http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/outbreaks/embargo.htm).
    5. CDC and USDA will continue to collaborate on guidelines and 
protocols to ensure a timely and coordinated response to an HPAI 
outbreak should it occur in the United States. In 2005-2006 the 
agencies worked together with other federal agencies on the USDA 
Playbook for Avian Influenza, a protocol that defines each agency's 
roles and responsibilities in response to H5N1 in the United States.
    6. CDC staff will closely monitor human cases of HPAI and human 
infections with other novel influenza strains in other countries. If 
the review process identifies clearly that risks to human health could 
be further mitigated by an importation ban on birds and bird products 
coming from a particular country, HHS/CDC will implement additional 
importation restrictions for birds and unprocessed bird products. For 
example, if human illnesses and/or deaths from infection with a novel 
strain of influenza also shown to be

[[Page 40826]]

circulating in birds were reported in a country with no official 
confirmation of avian cases (that would normally trigger a USDA ban), 
HHS/CDC could implement restrictions on an emergency basis.
    Public Comment #2: The second comment was not specific for HPAI, 
but addressed general concerns about potentially zoonotic diseases 
associated with wild birds. The commenter urged CDC to reconsider 
rescinding this order with respect to live birds and to review the 
disease risks created by these bird imports to protect people from 
dangerous infectious diseases.
    CDC Response: The current embargo on birds and bird products from 
countries that have had HPAI identified in poultry is very specific and 
does not cover all potentially zoonotic diseases from imported wild 
birds. Therefore, rescinding the current order would have neither an 
adverse nor a positive affect on the zoonotic risks of importing wild 
birds.
    Public Comment #3: The third comment was in support of CDC's 
rescission of its bird embargo.
    CDC Response: As stated above, CDC will continue to work closely 
with USDA and other human and animal health partners to monitor the 
situation with HPAI in both birds and people to protect both animal and 
human health in the United States.
    In summary, HHS/CDC believes that the actions taken to date by 
USDA/APHIS adequately mitigate the human health risks of HPAI 
associated with birds and unprocessed bird products imported from the 
countries of concern. HHS/CDC plans to mitigate any future human health 
risks that are not adequately addressed by USDA/APHIS regulations, thus 
ensuring a strong coordinated federal response. Therefore, the HHS/CDC 
order of February 4, 2004, and its subsequent amendments are no longer 
needed.

Action

    Therefore, effective September 14, 2009, HHS/CDC is rescinding its 
February 4, 2004, order and all amendments from the following dates: 
March 10, 2004; September 28, 2004; December 29, 2005; February 8, 
2006; February 22, 2006; February 27, 2006; March 2, 2006; March 15, 
2006; March 20, 2006; March 21, 2006; March 29, 2006; April 10, 2006; 
April 28, 2006; May 16, 2006; June 2, 2006; and February 28, 2007.

    Dated: August 5, 2009.
James Seligman,
Chief Information Officer, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
[FR Doc. E9-19453 Filed 8-12-09; 8:45 am]
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