x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

After foot-and-mouth, bird flu outbreak in South Korea

The country has confirmed its first instance of the disease in two years, slaughtering about 120,000 chickens and ducks since it was detected on Wednesday.

BEIJING // South Korea yesterday confirmed its first outbreak of bird flu for more than two years, as the country continues to grapple with both foot-and-mouth disease and swine flu.

Already about 120,000 chickens and ducks have been slaughtered since bird flu was detected on Wednesday, according to the country's ministry for food, agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

The news comes less than two months after Hong Kong announced a woman had developed the often fatal condition after visiting mainland China.

The H5N1 bird flu strain was detected at a duck farm in Cheonan in the west of South Korea and at a chicken farm in Iksan further south. Three cases have also been detected in migratory birds, which have been blamed for this week's outbreaks.

Both affected areas have been put under quarantine, with birds in neighbouring farms also killed, while farms further afield have been instructed to install netting to prevent migratory birds from entering.

Yoo Man-keun, an official in Cheonan, said it was difficult to keep away migratory birds that arrive in the country in search of food.

"We've put up scarecrows to scare them away, but all to no avail," he told journalists.

Previous outbreaks of bird flu in the country forced the slaughter of vast numbers of birds, with more than eight million killed in the last outbreak, in April 2008, 2.8 million in 2006/07 and 5.3 million in 2003/04.

Several countries have been hit by bird flu this year, most seriously Egypt where a number of people died. Globally, bird flu has caused more than 300 deaths in humans since 2003, although the virus that causes the condition has not mutated into a form that allows it to spread easily person-to-person.

This week's outbreak piles pressure on a country reeling over the past month with the spread of foot-and-mouth disease, a fatal viral condition that affects cloven-hoofed farm animals but rarely causes illness in humans.

So far 580,000 cattle and pigs have been slaughtered and more than 300,000 vaccinated at 12,000 farms in an effort to contain the disease, although yesterday three more outbreaks were confirmed, bringing the total to more than 70. The government yesterday estimated the cost of the outbreak at more than 520 billion won (Dh1.70bn).

Officials confirmed on Thursday that one man had died from swine flu, caused by the H1N1 virus, the first fatality from the outbreak, which was identified on December 14 and has spread to more than a dozen farms. Swine flu killed more than 100 people in the country in 2009.

 

dbardsley@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting from Agence France-Presse