|Quarantine authorities: poultry nationwide exposed to bird flu|
|JANUARY 01, 2011 08:44|
|Suspected cases of bird flu reported in Cheonan, South Chungcheong Province and Iksan, North Jeolla Province were found to be avian influenza Friday, placing the government on high alert since the disease can affect both animals and humans. |
It is the first time that Korea has been hit by foot and mouth disease and bird flu at the same time.
The Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry said Friday that the inspections on suspected cases of bird flu at a duck farm in Cheonan and a chicken farm in Iksan found that they are highly pathogenic strain of bird flu.
The deadly strain of bird flu was also detected from dead mallards in Sacheon, South Gyeongsang Province the same day.
The highly pathogenic strain of bird flu is lethal to poultry, such as chickens and ducks, as is highly contagious and has a high mortality rate.
The Agricultural Ministry raised its alert level for avian influenza from “attention” to “caution” in accordance with an emergency countermeasure manual the same day. The alert system consists of four stages: attention, caution, warning, and serious.
The ministry also set up a countermeasure center for avian influenza. Prior to this, quarantine authorities had culled more than 10,000 ducks and 11,000 chickens in the affected farms in Cheonan and Iksan.
The government designated areas within a 3-kilometer radius from the affected farms as risky zones and those within a 10-kilometer radius as caution zones to disinfect the areas and restrict movements of poultry, such as chickens and ducks.
Lee Sang-gil, head of the food industry policy of the ministry, said, “Our investigation into the affected farms found that transport vehicles for duck eggs went to the affected farms and four hatcheries in Cheonan,” adding, “We are limiting access to the hatcheries and investigating the possibility of spread of the disease.”
The ministry has decided to conduct serum tests for all the chickens and ducks in farms within a 10-kilometer radius from the affected farms.
Lee said, “The latent period of bird flu for ducks is longer than a week, so we need more close inspections.”
Quarantine authorities said the possibility of bird flu breaking out in areas outside Cheonan and Iksan is very high.
A quarantine official said, “The highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza was detected from four wild birds, which are the main culprit of the spread of the virus,” adding, “We should think that the poultry nationwide are virtually exposed to the disease.”
The Agriculture Ministry fears a reduction in poultry consumption as bird flu affects both animals and humans.
A ministry official said, “Humans are not infected by the disease through consumption of ducks and chickens.” If humans contact infected birds and their feces, however, they can develop the disease.
According to the World Health Organization, 447 people worldwide have been affected by bird flu since 2003 and 263 of them died.
With the confirmation of avian influenza in poultry, Korea has lost its status as a clean country for bird flu and will face difficulty exporting raw chickens for the time being.
Quarantine authorities decided the same day to vaccinate cattle in the four regions affected by foot and mouth disease.
Hoengseong had opposed the vaccination for fear of its image as the place for Korean beef production being tainted, but agreed the same day to do so after pigs at one of the farms in the region was confirmed to have infected with the disease.
With the agreement, more than 36,000 heads of cattle in more than 1,670 farms within a 10-kilometer radius from the affected farm will be vaccinated.
As of Friday, the number of areas vaccinated against food and mouth disease increased to 10 cities and provinces, and additional suspected cases of the disease were reported in Pohang, North Gyeongsang Province and Yanggu, Gangwon Province the same day.