11 July 2024

Sniffer dogs, known locally as “inspector beagles”, helped quarantine inspectors at Suvarnabhumi airport to intercept smoked bats, hidden in luggage flown into Thailand on a flight from China’s Kunming City yesterday (Wednesday).

Somchuan Ratanamungklanon, director-general of the Livestock Development Department, said inspectors, from the quarantine and inspection canine unit based at the airport, opened the luggage after a trained beagle detected something unusual.

They found a package of smoked bats wrapped in a plastic bag, a 2.5kg pack of smoked pig leg and 4.5kgs of smoked pork belly.

He said that quarantine inspectors focus on flights from high-risk countries, such as China, Cambodia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and Laos, where various species of wildlife are consumed as a delicacy.

He said that the smuggling of animal carcasses into Thailand is against the Animal Diseases Act, adding that samples of the impounded meat have been sent to a lab for analysis, while the remainder will be destroyed, as a precautionary measure, to prevent a possible outbreak of animal diseases, particularly African swine fever.

Somchuan also said that bats are known to carry various diseases and pathogens, including the Nipah virus, as he urged Thai consumers to avoid eating uncooked meat or wildlife.

According to the World Health Organisation, the Nipah virus (NIV) is a zoonotic virus and can be transmitted through contaminated food or directly between people. In humans, it causes a range of illnesses, from asymptomatic infections to acute respiratory illness and fatal encephalitis. The virus can also cause severe disease in animals, including pigs, resulting in significant economic losses for farmers.

The natural host of the virus is the fruit bat.

Although there have only been a few outbreaks of Nipah virus infections in Asia, it infects a wide range of animals and causes severe disease and death in humans, making it a public health concern.

There are currently no drugs or vaccines to treat or protect against Nipah virus infection. Intensive supportive care is recommended in the treatment of severe respiratory and neurologic complications.