Deadly strainsThe highly virulent avian influenza virus has reached Seoul. The strain that infected pheasants at the aviary of Gwangjin District Office was found to be the deadly H5N1. Only a month after the first confirmed cases of avian influenza in Gimje, North Jeolla, the outbreak has spread to other Jeolla regions, Gyeongsang provinces, Gyeonggi and Chungcheong provinces. And now Seoul.
Adding to the tension, another avian influenza outbreak was confirmed in Chuncheon, Gangwon, yesterday.
Although the situation is getting worse, health authorities have yet to find the route and cause of the infection.
Quarantine authorities are doing their best to stop the disease from spreading by culling all poultry and birdsin the infected areas, but the quarantine and disinfection system has showed once again a number of shortcomings, such as delays in reporting and briefings.
It is hard for the government to avoid criticism for doing nothing but managing the situation from behind their desks.
The two pheasants at the Gwangjin District Office’s aviary died on April 28, but it took five days for the office to ask the National Veterinary Research and Quarantine Service to conduct tests.
Due to delayed reporting in Gimje and Jeongeup at the initial stages of the outbreak, it was too late to stop the virus from spreading. What’s infuriating is that the same mistake of legally-required reporting was repeated.
The Gwangjin District Office didn’t even inform the Seoul city government about its case. That meant that 500,000 people visited the nearby Children’s Grand Park on Children’s Day with no knowledge about the outbreak.
Avian influenza is a deadly disease with a 63 percent fatality rate. There is no cure and only preventive medicine exists. No definitive cause is known.
What’s more, a patient was reported to have caught the human form of avian influenza in North Jeolla this year, and people are more agitated than ever.
The good news is that even if the poultry is infected, it is not harmful to humans if it is cooked for more than five minutes at 75 degrees centigrade (167 F).
Health authorities must stop this avian influenza outbreak from spreading further and they have to let people know how to prepare poultry properly.
Furthermore, all suspected avian influenza patients must be thoroughly monitored to prevent transmission.