Single avian flu case in N. Jeolla

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Single avian flu case in N. Jeolla

In the middle of a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak, avian flu has been detected in Korea.

Avian influenza (type H5N1) was confirmed in a wild bird on Tuesday in Iksan, North Jeolla - the main habitat for migratory birds - putting health officials on alert to prevent the spread of the virus to domestic poultry.

The Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said that a blood sample from a mallard in the Mangyeong River was verified to have the virus. The ministry has been conducting annual preventive inspections of 1,600 migratory birds since 2008, when avian flu, also known as highly pathogenic avian influenza A (HPAI), swept the country.

As the virus was not detected from a poultry farm, Korea’s avian influenza-free status is intact. “There is no impediment to exporting poultry even though HPAI was found in a wild bird,” said a ministry official.

The ministry is stepping up disinfection work to keep the flu from spreading to farm-bred poultry. An emergency disinfection of the area around the Mangyeong River is being conducted, and the government established a tight quarantine with a 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) radius. In addition, four mobile quarantine posts have been set up within a kilometer of the epicenter.

Around 3.25 million poultry are being raised within the 10-kilometer cordon. Officials are monitoring birds for sickness and installing nets around farms to keep away wild birds.

The shipping of chickens out of the controlled zone will be allowed only after inspection by quarantine officials. In the case of shipping ducks, farms should get a negative serum from the birds three days before shipment.

“All shipping of poultry including chickens and ducks is prohibited for 30 days,” a North Jeolla provincial office said yesterday.

South Chungcheong, which has towns located around 20 kilometers away from the outbreak site, is also beefing up quarantine measures. Kim Hong-bin, a local government official, said, “We cannot rule out the possibility of the spreading of the virus. [We will] block the virus in every way, treating this like a war.”

The government temporarily banned the import of poultry from Japan on Dec. 3 after H5N1 was confirmed in Shimane Prefecture.

Korea was hit three times by avian influenza, with the latest outbreak occurring in April 2008 and resulting in a record 8.46 million birds being culled. Previous outbreaks took place in 2003-2004 and 2006-2007.


By Yoo Sun-young, Yonhap [enational@joongang.co.kr]

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