Gov’t tries to stop spread of highly pathogenic strain of AI

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Gov’t tries to stop spread of highly pathogenic strain of AI


Quarantine officials restrict movement into Gochang County, North Jeolla, on Monday following a bird flu outbreak on a poultry farm there. The farm’s ducks were confirmed to have a highly pathogenic strain of H5N6. [YONHAP]

The government Monday imposed a seven-day freeze on movement of workers and vehicles from poultry farms in Gochang County in North Jeolla to try to stop the spread of a highly pathogenic strain of H5N6 avian influenza (AI).

The authorities also imposed a 48-hour freeze on movement of poultry farmers and their vehicles nationwide, which took effect on Monday at midnight, and raised its avian influenza alert to the highest level.

Violators will face up to one year in prison or a fine of up to 10 million won ($9,100).

The government also decided to disinfect all poultry farms and their vehicles nationwide.

The move came hours after it was confirmed that a bird flu outbreak on a poultry farm in Gochang, some 280 kilometers (173.9 miles) southwest of Seoul, was confirmed to be a highly pathogenic strain of H5N6, a deadly virus that swept Korea’s poultry farms last year and ended with more than 30 million birds culled and a drastic hike in egg prices.

Traces of H5N6 AI were confirmed later Monday from feces of migratory birds found on Suncheonman Bay in South Jeolla.

The agricultural ministry said Monday it slaughtered over 12,300 ducks raised on the farm on which ducks were diagnosed with the H5N6 strain on Saturday and carried out disinfection procedures in surrounding areas and farms. Checkpoints will be set up on roads nationwide as a preventive measure.

All shops selling chickens and ducks are subject to disinfection while the trading of chickens is banned indefinitely, Kim Yung-rak, the agricultural ministry, said during a press briefing Monday.

The government ordered shops that sell chickens and ducks to undergo disinfection four times a month, up from the current once-a-month.

All nine poultry farms in the vicinity of the Gochang farm tested negative for AI, the government reported. Reports that the country had another confirmed case of the H5N6 strain alarmed government officials, who remember well the country’s worst bird flu outbreak last year, which lasted from November 2016 through this March and led to over 33 million birds being culled. An outbreak this year is particularly worrying as the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games are now less than three months away.

During the five-month outbreak, egg prices skyrocketed. The selling price of a tray of 30 eggs jumped to nearly 9,000 won at the height of the outbreak in late January, which has come down to 5,746 won as of Friday, according to the Korea Agro-Fisheries and Food Trade Corporation.

With the latest outbreak, Korea lost an AI-free status that it reacquired on Oct. 13 following a three-month period in which no AI case was reported. With the loss of that status, Korea is again banned from exporting chicken meat.

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