More cases of bird flu suspected
A second and third possible outbreak of bird flu were reported at duck farms in southwestern Korea over the weekend, sparking fears that avian influenza might be spreading across the country, a government body said yesterday.
The Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries announced yesterday that the two other suspected cases — at poultry farms in Jeongeup and Sunchang in North Jeolla — will mean more disinfecting operations in the region.
Jeongeup is only 27 kilometers (17 miles) from the site where the deadly H5N1 bird flu strain broke out on April 3, leading to the slaughtering of 308,000 chickens. Preliminary tests showed the presence of bird flu in Jeongeup, but such tests were not conducted at the other site in Sunchang, 74 kilometers south of the initial outbreak on a chicken farm in Gimje, North Jeolla.
According to the ministry, about 6,000 ducks at the Jeongeup farm have died since the last day of March.
Authorities killed and buried the remaining 6,500 ducks at the farm right after a preliminary test indicated bird flu was present.
The National Veterinary Research and Quarantine Service took further tests to determine whether the avian influenza virus is the highly contagious strain, called H5N1.
The ministry said it will reveal the results of the additional tests by
“We have banned the movement of about 1.8 million poultry outside a 10-kilometer radius of the duck farm,” Kim Yong-sang, an official of the ministry, said in a statement. “We will try our best not to spread the bird flu.”
The owner of the farm in Sunchang, whose name was not released by the ministry, reported the outbreak over the weekend.
Government officials said about 500 ducks have died during the last 10 days at Sunchang. The owner has about 9,500 ducks.
“I think the ducks died of other regular diseases, not bird flu, but we will conduct a test to confirm why they died,” said an official of North Jeolla Province, declining to be named. The official said more birds probably would have died if it was bird flu.
The possible rapid spread of avian influenza has hurt the industry. The stock prices of the big three poultry suppliers — Harim, Maniker and Dongwoo — fell after the first case of bird flu was confirmed to be H5N1.
“As the temperature climbs, people normally don’t have to worry much about bird flu,” said the 57-year-old owner of a farm in Jeongeup who asked to be identified only as Mr. Kim. “But I can’t go outside freely.”
Bird flu is typically only found in the winter and spring.
The highly contagious H5N1 strain was last reported in March 2007 in Korea.
Korea reported seven cases of bird flu with the deadly H5N1 strain between November 2006 and March last year.
According to the World Health Organization, the H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed more than 230 people worldwide since late 2003. There has never been a human infection in Korea.
By Park Sang-woo Staff Reporter/ Jang Dae-suk JoongAng Ilbo [email@example.com]