[EDITORIALS]Avian flu: Keep up the guardThe bird flu scare is spreading.
It was officially confirmed that avian flu has been found in six Asian countries, including Korea, where the disease first broke out in Eumseong, North Chungcheong province, in December.
Human casualties have been reported in Vietnam and Thailand because of the disease.
Until now, only those who have been in contact with infected live birds have caught the disease. But the World Heath Organization warned that if the virus mutates and can be spread from human to human, the flu could become more dangerous than severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.
The new disease is reminiscent of the Spanish flu, which killed tens of millions of people in 1918 and 1919. SARS, which killed 800 persons last year, is most lethal about 10 days after symptoms appear, but bird flu can kill when symptoms first appear. That makes it more difficult to deal with the disease.
Though bird flu cases have not recurred since Jan. 13 in Korea, we cannot afford to be complacent. Experts say there is a possibility that the bird flu virus could hide in ducks and reappear later; ducks show fewer symptoms than other fowl. It is fortunate that no Korean has been infected, but we need to stay alert to prevent a reoccurrence of the disease and human infections.
It is also possible that the bird flu virus could mutate and becomes more contagious if it infects humans who have colds. Thus, the government should continue its thorough quarantine measures in areas where the disease has been discovered.
We should not forget that casual attitudes and treating bird flu like more common livestock diseases could lead to disaster.
The government should spread the word about outbreaks of the disease quickly and step up its cooperation with other countries and with the World Health Organization in fighting the disease.
About 2.4 million chickens and ducks have been slaughtered here to fight the disease. Chicken and duck producers and related industries are seeing a drop in demand for chicken and duck. The government must support those who suffered from the outbreak of the disease and prepare and promote environmentally-friendly livestock farming standards.