Malaysia has gone on “red” alert in a move to keep at bay the bird flu that has reared its head in eastern Asia this month.

Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the government has instructed all enforcement agencies to tighten controls to prevent smuggling of chicken and other birds into the country.

The Veterinary Services Department has issued strict protocol on the import of chicken, eggs and other poultry foodstuff, he told reporters after a visit to a padi seed factory in the Lahar Bubu Area Farmers Organisation (AFO), here.

Malaysia was declared free of bird flu on June 22 last year.

Meanwhile, the onset of dry weather from March is expected to be a blessing in disguise for poultry breeders because the bird flu virus only multiplies easily on in cold and damp weather.

“The H5N1 virus will be killed in the hot weather such as this,” said Dr Kamaruddin Isa, acting director of the Epidemiology and Veterinary Medicine Division in the Health Ministry.